The Jets may think they have quarterback drama each week, but it all pales in comparison to the plight of the Cleveland Browns.
New York (2-5) has started 13 different quarterbacks since 1999 – the same year that the reincarnated Browns came back to the NFL. That baker’s dozen is indeed a lot for a franchise, but it’s nothing compared to what Cleveland has endured, as they’ve started 26 different signal-callers in that same span.
Cleveland has already had four starting quarterbacks this season, and six in its last 10 games, dating back to 2015. Rookie Cody Kessler (concussion) still hasn’t practiced this week for the Browns (0-7), which means the Jets will likely see veteran Josh McCown under center. McCown hasn’t played since Week 2 when he injured his collarbone. The Jets will need to be on high alert should McCown get the call, though, because despite him being a journeyman and quarterbacking a winless Browns team, he can be a dangerous gunslinger when he gets hot, able to carve up a defense. And while Gang Green is coming off a strong performance, last week, they’ve had issues stopping the pass all season.
This game is no gimme, regardless of the standings. The Browns may be a lock for the first pick in the 2017 draft, but the Jets should still treat this game with the utmost importance, because they’re not in a position to take any team lightly.
Metro takes a look at some storylines to follow, as the Jets visit the Dawg Pound for first time since 2010.
1. Banged-up Browns’ receivers versus a struggling Jets’ secondary
The Browns have lost a ton of firepower in the passing game this season due to injuries (wideouts Terrelle Pryor and rookie sensation Corey Coleman) and suspensions (receiver Josh Gordon). Gordon is definitely out, but the availability of the other two stars is up in the air. Coleman was listed as limited during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices. This is the first week he’s put in work since suffering a broken hand leading up to Week 3. The rookie has been allowed to run routes, but he’s yet to make catches. Pryor is the most likely to play, but he won’t be 100 percent. A pulled hamstring limited him to 31 of 64 snaps in Cincinnati, last week, and the offense suffered for it in a 31-17 defeat. The matchup is a good one for Pryor should he play and be anywhere near healthy, as he’s the only weapon on the receiving corps who is able to put pressure on the Jets’ secondary.
2. Shadowing Brandon Marshall
The Browns have a Pro Bowl cornerback in Joe Haden who has the tools to harass the Jets’ Pro Bowl wideout. But if Haden can’t go, Ryan Fitzpatrick will definitely look early and often for his favorite target. Fitzpatrick will likely try and squeeze some balls in tight coverage even if Haden plays, but if the sleek corner isn’t suited up, the bearded one will definitely seek out his main guy. Haden has missed the last two games after straining a groin muscle in practice, and he's also missed three of the Browns' last five games. That’s not a good trend when the Browns will face a guy in Marshall who will be looking to bounce back from last week’s blah performance (three catches for 39 yards).
3. O-Line issues
A major reason why the Jets’ offense has slowed since its Week 2 explosion in Buffalo is because the running game has gone stale – save for last week’s 100-yard performance by running back Matt Forte – and the quarterback play has been erratic. Offensive success will always start with the line, regardless of what type of talent is at the skill positions, so the Jets will need to get guys healthy and shore up their front five. The status of center Nick Mangold (ankle) is still up in the air, and left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder) and guard/tackle Brent Qvale (neck) are also dealing with issues. Qvale is already listed as out, while Bowles admitted that the status of his All-Pro center “doesn’t look good.” That’s not good news for the Jets, as the Browns have an underrated pass rush, led by two rookies. Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib have progressed each week. Ogbah, a second-round pick from Oklahoma State University, had two sacks last week and is coming into his own at right defensive end. Nassib, a third-round pick out of Penn State and the younger brother of Giants’ backup quarterback Ryan, has been dominating opposing right tackles lately. The Bengals made it a point to avoid the 6-foot-7 Nassib, last week, showing a lot of respect for a rookie who is playing with a broken bone in his hand. Nassib finished last week with four tackles and a half-sack, so the Jets should be keen on the burgeoning bookends.
Gang Green notes:
- 12 players missed practice on Thursday. Among the notables were Mangold, rookie linebacker Darron Lee (ankle), safety Antonio Allen (Achilles), defensive end Sheldon Richardson (funeral services), and cornerback Buster Skrine (knee).