During the season, Bent’s Game Analysis charts games for some of the Jets’ upcoming opponents, enabling a break down of what to watch out for on gameday…
With both teams out of playoff contention, today’s game is essentially meaningless and there may be people within each team’s front office (and fanbase) that wouldn’t mind losing this one to improve on their draft position. Nevertheless, there are some talented players on show and it should be interesting to see the teams pit their wits against one another.
After the jump, I break down the positional groupings (BGA-style!) to try and highlight what the Jets need to look out for.
The quarterback position has been in flux all year for the Browns, but veteran Jason Campbell returned to the starting lineup two weeks ago and has settled things down, passing for over 660 yards and four touchdowns. He did start four other games earlier in the year, but didn’t fare so well, with more interceptions than touchdowns in all four games.
Despite being 31, Campbell can still pick up some first downs with his legs. He’s gained 80 yards on 11 carries this year.
Former starter Brandon Weeden (himself 30, despite being only being in his second season) currently backs up Campbell. He has completed just 53% of his passes for a QB rating of 70.3 this season.
The Browns have some top talent on their offensive line with left tackle Joe Thomas still one of the best blindside pass protectors in the game and center Alex Mack consistently rated in amongst the best in the league. Those two have only given up one sack each this season. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz – last year’s second round pick – is a solid player too, although until last week’s game he was grading out negative both as a run blocker and as a pass blocker. He’s given up 11 sacks and 18 quarterback hits this season.
It’s at the guard spots where the Browns struggle. Left guard John Greco isn’t bad, but he’s been ruled out for today, having not missed a snap all year entering the Patriots game two weeks ago.
Oniel Cousins had started the first four games of the year at right guard, but struggled so badly that he’s only been used in goal line jumbo packages of late and therefore probably isn’t a consideration to start. Instead the Browns will opt for Jason Pinkston, who missed the first 13 games of the year, but stepped in following Greco’s injury and got the starting job last week. Pinkston was a 5th round pick in 2011 and started all year as a rookie, but was out of his depth and struggled badly. He had showed minor improvements last year before getting hurt.
Shaun Lauvao replaced Cousins in week five and has started ever since, but hasn’t been a major upgrade. The former 3rd round pick, acquired from the Jets in the Braylon Edwards trade, grades out poorly as a run blocker, but has been an upgrade over Cousins in pass protection.
Veteran Willis McGahee leads the Browns in rushing, having taken over as the lead back following the departure of Trent Richardson to Indianapolis. He’s lost a step in recent years and is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. McGahee has five 100-yard games against the Jets in his career, but the most recent of these was over seven years ago.
Chris Ogbonnaya is more dangerous, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and adding 46 catches. He gets most of his reps as a fullback though. The change of pace back has been Fozzy Whittaker, but he is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry.
Youngster Edwin Baker made the first appearance of his career last week and rushed for a touchdown which, surprisingly, is only the third rushing touchdown by a Browns player all season. Maybe he’s earned a longer look.
At the receiver position, all the buzz has been over Josh Gordon and justifiably so. He’s a threat downfield but can also make plays in space. He’s been in scintillating form over the past month or so and figures to do plenty of damage to the Jets fragile secondary. In recent weeks, teams have loaded up in an effort to shut him down and a couple of times he’s been quiet in the first half, but still broke out and produced in the second half. Last week the Bears managed to hold him to 67 yards on three catches, but he did score a touchdown for the 5th week in a row. Prior to that, he had 748 yards and five touchdowns over the previous four games – over 300 yards more than any Jets receiver has managed all season.
The Browns’ second most dangerous offensive weapon has been tight end Jordan Cameron, who leads them with 75 catches and has scored seven touchdowns. Cameron is out because he’s suffering from a concussion, so the Browns will use Gary Barnidge at tight end. Barnidge hasn’t had three catches in a game all season, but did score on a 40-yard catch and run against New England two weeks ago, so he does offer some kind of a threat. MarQuies Gray, an undrafted rookie who has barely played all year, will back up Barnidge.
In terms of the other receivers, Greg Little will start opposite Gordon. The former 2nd round pick has had another disappointing year and has already dropped 30 passes in the NFL despite only being in his third season.
Former Dolphins slot specialist Davone Bess has just been placed on the inactive list so the Browns will be down to Josh Cooper and Brian Tyms, two 2012 undrafted free agents with no catches between them this season as their third and fourth options.
The Browns run a 3-4 system and their interior linemen are all solid against the run. Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn and Phil Taylor are listed as the starters. The nose tackle (Taylor) exits the game in passing situations. Winn moved to the top of the depth chart when Desmond Bryant was placed on the non-football inactive list after requiring a minor heart procedure. John Hughes has really emerged in his second season and has graded out better against the run than any of the starters, despite receiving less playing time, so he could see a more significant role.
Rookie seventh rounder Armonty Bryant is listed as a linebacker, but actually sees most of his reps as a defensive tackle in pass rush situations. Ismaa’ily Kitchen provides solid backup reps at the nose.
At inside linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson has only missed one snap all season and is a solid all-round player. Alongside him, Craig Robertson has been starting, but he’s been picked upon in coverage (46 receptions on 52 targets, including five touchdowns for a QB rating of over 140).
At outside linebacker, they’ve been rotating three guys with veteran Paul Kruger and recent secound round pick Jabaal Sheard starting. Rookie Barkevious Mingo rotates in and gets plenty of playing time, but Browns fans have been disappointed with the amount of pressure off the edge for most of the year. The three of them have combined for 15 sacks, though, led by Sheard’s team-high 5.5.
No other Browns linebacker has played 100 snaps this year, although they have been giving a few reps to some of their youngsters in recent weeks.
The strength of the Browns secondary depends heavily on the availability of Joe Haden, who has been listed as questionable. He’s started every game for them this year and is easily their best cornerback.
Buster Skrine, last year’s slot corner, has started every game since opening day, but he’s no number one cornerback. Skrine reverts to the slot when the Browns go into their nickel or dime packages. He leads the team with 18 missed tackles.
The main backup corners – Leon McFadden and Jordan Poyer – are both rookies and had been contributing at the safety position as well over the last few weeks. That’s important, because they lack depth at safety too. Another option at corner is former Jet Julian Posey.
At safety, TJ Ward has had a great season and leads the team with 70 solo tackles. He’s been paired with Tashaun Gipson all year. Gipson, an undrafted free agent last year, had struggled for most of the season, but had two interceptions last week, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
The Browns punter is Spencer Lanning, who was a Jet very briefly after TJ Conley was released late last preseason. He’s been pretty underwhelming all year and is in the bottom 10 for most categories, although he is in the top 10 for landing kicks inside the 20. Their kicker is Billy Cundiff, who was also a Jet earlier this year. Cundiff has missed four field goals all year and is still effective at kicking off.
In the return game, Whittaker has been returning kickoffs and Poyer has recently taken over as the punt returner. Neither has a touchdown yet, but Travis Benjamin (currently on injured reserve) did get one earlier in the season. In coverage, backup safety Johnson Bademosi leads them with 11 special teams tackles.
I’ll be back tomorrow to recap the game.
Stats from PFF were used in the completion of this article.