The Browns are at a crossroads

Oct 1, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson talks with owner Jimmy Haslam before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the start of the season the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns were expected to have somewhat of a different trajectory.

The talk surrounding the Jets during the preseason was all about army hardware. Hardware of the tracked variety. QB Josh McCown played about 2 quarters of football. Christian Hackenberg played himself out of the league and Bryce Petty…well he played OK but then got hurt.

They also traded or did not resign any player anybody deemed worthy of being paid as a professional. Revis, out. Marshall, gone, and Sheldon Richardson traded on the eve of the season.

The tracked vehicles all appeared to be well and truly in the garage. Only problem is it seems is that they forgot to tell the players.

After four straight victories, only giving up one TD to the opposition, the preseason seemed to indicate the lol Browns had turned into the on a roll Browns.

The team, while young, looked to be playing with energy and desire and buoyed by the emergence of rookie QB DeShone Kizer and the play of number one pick Myles Garrett. The team looked sharp and well and truly on the up.

Four games into the season the roll is off track and the lol is back. Whatever it is the Browns are doing it isn’t working. It isn’t working and they need to do something about it quick.

On paper the Jets and the Browns appear to be evenly matched. The Browns 26th ranked offense, 296 yards at 15.8 ppg, will take on the Jets 20th ranked offense, 323 yards at 18.8 ppg.

On the defensive side of the ball the Jets come to First energy stadium ranked 17th , 338 ypg at 23 ppg, while the Browns D takes up position 16 with 328 ypg giving up 26.8 ppg.

As I said before, on paper the teams look evenly matched. The problem is we don’t play games on paper. The players still need to go out and run, catch and tackle and the Jets’ record of 2- 2 would suggest that they are doing it much better than the Browns who sit winless at 0 – 4.

If ever there was a ‘must win’ game for the Browns then Sunday’s game is it. The fans need a win. The team needs a win, so does the coaching staff and especially the front office who needs to validate its much-maligned ‘moneyball’ strategy through wins on the field.

Coach Hue Jackson has said repeatedly that he wants his team’s offensive focus to be on running the ball. The first four games, however, have seen the Browns do anything but that. Coming into the game only averaging 102 ypg running the ball doesn’t seem to match Hue’s stated objective and that will need to change drastically if the Browns are to notch their first win for the season.

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The Jets run defense is ripe for the taking. Allowing 143 ypg rushing over the first four games ranks the Jets 29th in stopping the run. When the Browns are able to play a balanced offense they look productive and move the ball well. Unfortunately for coach Jackson, and rookie QB Kizer, game situation has limited the team’s ability to play in that fashion.

Behind on the scoreboard in every game this season has led to the team being forced to rely heavily on passing the ball limiting the team’s ability to gain any traction or continuity in running the ball. If they can run the ball effectively on Sunday then it will take the pressure off of Kizer and limit the amount of time he needs to air it out.

The Jets, however, will want Kizer and the Browns to do exactly that.

The Jets’ pass defense comes into the game only allowing 194 ypg and 7 TDs while taking the ball away from the opposition with four interceptions. This is where the game is going to be won and lost.

The heavily maligned Browns receiving core will need to play above and beyond anything we have seen this year if the Browns are to have success.

If Kizer cannot stretch the field then the Jets will take away the run and the offensive troubles will continue.

If the Browns are to win it will come from a breakout performance from one of the team’s wide receivers. Who that will be? Your guess is as good as mine.

Defensively the Browns will want to pressure Josh McCown as much as possible. We know from his time in Cleveland that quick decision making and accuracy are not his strong points and the Browns will want to force him to play a reactionary game for all four quarters.

The debut of Myles Garret should raise the level of the Browns edge pass rush and force McCown and the Jets to beat them through the running backs and tight ends. Garret’s presence should free up Emanual Ogbah and the two of them should pose a challenge for the Jets’ O-Line who have allowed 12 sacks already this season.

If the Browns pass rush cannot get to McCown then the secondary must step up and drastically limit the passing game of the Jets. The Browns pass defense has given up 241 ypg for nine TDs with only 2 interceptions in its first four games.

Ranked 8th in stopping the run the Browns must force McCown to pass. This is where he is vulnerable and where they will need to attack.

Coach Greg Williams talks a big games and Sunday’s game is the time when everyone needs to walk the talk. The return of Garrett, Collins and Shelton leaves the team with no more excuses and if they cannot stop the Jets offense then season 2018 is going to be another long one for the Browns, its fans and our tear-stained pillows.

The pressure is mounting on everyone within the Brown’s organization but I see the team rising to the occasion and getting the win 24 – 10.

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