New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown can relate to the misery of tomorrow’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, because it wasn’t too long ago that the journeyman lived it, as a member of that team.
As the Jets (2-2) invade FirstEnergy Field, they’ll be looking to continue their anti-tank season and topple a Browns (0-4) squad that is desperate to get its first win – especially in front of the fabled and rabid Dawg Pound.
It’s been a fun ride foe the Jets so far, as the season is not going according to plan – at least not for the ardent fanbase, who likely wanted to tank and win as little games as possible. The Jets, who were supposed to be miserable, are on a two-game winning streak, and by taking on the Browns, there’s a high probability that a third-straight win is on its way.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Jets can stand some early season prosperity, even if the Browns are a home favorite at 2.5 points.
Salute Magazine takes a look at the key storylines to follow, as Gang Green looks to climb over the .500 mark.
#1 Get after the quarterback … Rookie DeShone Kizer will be under center, which means the Jets get a favorable matchup for the third-straight week. The prior two victims along this two-game winning streak featured the Miami Dolphins’ Jay Cutler, who had to be pried away from the television booth as an analyst after starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s knee gave out, and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Blake Bortles, who as a former No. 3 overall pick, is looking like a turnover-ridden bust. If the Jets can frustrate Kizer and make him do rookie things, there’s a very high chance that Gang Green will get over the .500 hump for the first time since the 2015 season.
#2 The newbies can play … Sticking with the defensive theme, rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye have played beyond their years so far. It’ll be a great battle of young wits when they try and play chess with Kizer in the secondary. Veteran cornerback Morris Claiborne has been singing the praises of the duo since training camp, marveling at how mature they are and how fast they’ve assimilated to the pro game.
“It’s not like we have one rookie back there playing with an old vet who can show him the way while he’s on the field, [but] we have two rookies out there in their first year,” Claiborne effused. “To take on the challenges they’ve taken on this season [and] the way they’re playing … It’s unbelievable.”
It’s been an amazing journey so far for the neophytes, as they came to the Jets with the highest of expectations. Adams was the No. 6 overall pick, while Maye came soon after at the top of round two. There was no training wheels for either and no wading in the shallow end, as they were both immediately charged with changing the culture of last year’s horrible secondary, perform at high levels, and completely fix that inept unit. They’re doing so as the first-ever rookie safety duo to start a season since the National Football League and American Football League merged in 1967.
High honors and expectations. Can they keep surpassing the latter, tomorrow? It’ll be an interesting cat-and-mouse game with their fellow rookie classmate.
#3 Myles Garrett’s NFL debut … Another big-named rookie from this year’s draft class, as the No. 1 overall pick has declared himself ready to play, tomorrow.
“I’ll be out there as much as they want me to be, whether it’s a lot or a little,” reasoned the defensive end, noting he’s still not at 100 percent, but felt the need to get out there and help his team earn their first win. “Am I at my peak? No. But it’s good enough for me. I can move, I can run, [and] I can bend. If I can do that, I can be out there and I can make a difference.”
Garrett said he feels he can be that catalyst, tomorrow.
“It is just about doing what I can, making the plays I am supposed to make, and be who I am supposed to be on the field … [and] not be out of my gap or not missing any assignments,” he said. “And then once I have no hesitation or anything holding me back, then I can try to step forward and have a bigger role.”
Browns head coach Hue Jackson noted the former Texas A&M University star will be “on a pitch count,” considering Garrett didn’t play in any of the Browns’ first four games after spraining his ankle in practice, September 6, before the opener. He returned to practice a week ago, albeit limited. Garrett wanted to play, last week, against the Cincinnati Bengals, but was held back.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said he wasn’t so sure about last week, which is why they decided not to play him, but reasoned the rookie looked better this week in practices.
“He is not going out there thinking that I am going to go halfway,” Williams said. “Myles is going out there with an attitude that he wants to play and he wants to play really, really well.”
#4 The return of McCown … Entering this season, McCown was 2-20 as a starter and many of those losses came as a Browns’ starter, going 1-10 in his two seasons. But he didn’t play all that bad during his brief tenure, especially when considering all those that followed him since. McCown bridged the gap between the Johnny Manziel craziness in 2015 to the dubious train wrecks that included Robert Griffin III, Austin Davis, Cody Kessler, and Charlie Whitehurst in 2016. Those names are what led to the Browns getting the rights to draft Garrett and made the Kizer selection possible as well. McCown will be facing some talented, yet inexperienced, players on the Browns’ defense. And while he may not be anywhere near elite, he’s seen nearly every defensive concept in his 15-year career. Whatever Williams has in store for McCown, 38, he better do it early and often, because the sage vet is as streaky as they come. When he gets hot, he tends to stay that way for long stretches, as his 70.1 completion percentage ranks second in the NFL, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs’ Alex Smith (76.0). And McCown’s 80-percent completion rate in the first half of games is first in the league. Conversely, when he’s cold and rattled, it’s usually a field day for the defense, so the Browns need to attack him from jump.