In their first two matchups of the season, the Cleveland Browns teetered on the edge of victory, managing a tie against the 0-2 Steelers and losing on the last drive against the Saints. Despite being 0-1-1, the Browns are headed in the right direction. On Thursday, the Browns will take on the New York Jets, where I believe the Browns will finally score that elusive ‘W’.
The Browns defense is deceptively good. They did a great job at shutting down the Saints offense in the first half of Sunday’s game. They did relatively well in containing Alvin Kamara, they put pressure on Brees, and forced a couple of fumbles for turnovers. However, they ultimately fell victim to the Drew Brees-Michael Thomas connection in the second half. In fairness, the defense isn’t completely to blame here. Tyrod Taylor and the Browns offense struggled to get anything going against the Saints D, which left the Browns defense on the field for far too long trying to keep the team afloat. The now former Browns kicker, Zane Gonzalez, missed 4 kicks (2 FGs and 2 PAT), which would have given Cleveland the game.
By the end, the Saints offense had spent over 5 minutes on the field more than the Browns offense, but the defense managed to hold them to just 275 net yards, while Cleveland’s offense compiled 327 net yards against the Saints. After the game, Saints head coach Sean Payton heaped praise on Cleveland’s young defense. “They always give you challenging looks. I think they have some good young players that played well today.”
Against the Steelers, the Browns did give up a lot of yards both on the ground and in the air to the Steelers, but that’s inevitable when playing against the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Juju Smith-Schuster. Given that the game went 5 quarters, it’s impressive that the Browns held the Steelers to just 21 points. Had Cleveland’s offense been able to do a little more damage to Pittsburgh, Cleveland would have ended up with the win.
Despite failing to secure a win in the first two weeks, Browns head coach Hue Jackson seems upbeat about his team. “I feel good about our team”, said Jackson in a conference call on Monday. “As I said yesterday, there is a good football team in that room. We just have not won yet. They are battling hard, and we played two really good opponents.”
Meanwhile, the 1-1 Jets have played the Lions and Dolphins. They absolutely mauled the Lions but that is hardly a feat at this point. In their loss against the Dolphins, the Jet’s defense put up a solid effort, but New York’s offense failed to deliver.
For the Browns, the Jets will be the easiest team they have played thus far this season. It will be a close, hard fought game, but I see the Browns coming out on top in this one. The Browns will put loads of pressure on rookie QB Sam Darnold and won’t give up much against the running game. On offense, Tyrod Taylor and Carlos Hyde will be called upon to try and beat the Jet’s defense on the ground and will find success. It will be a game of defense, but Cleveland should have the advantage in this one.
Whether or not the Browns come away with the win Thursday, there is little doubt that Cleveland is more competitive this season and will put a few wins on the board by the end of the campaign. Hue Jackson has done a good job in building a core of young and talented players. The only question now is: when will the Browns finally get that much needed victory?