EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ
Four downs on Browns (0-1) v. New York Jets (0-1)
First down: No excuses.
The Jets’ work week started with coach Adam Gase solemnly announcing quarterback Sam Darnold would miss the game (and more) because of mononucleosis. It ended with playmaking linebacker C.J. Mosely (groin) and rookie No. 1 pick defensive tackle Quinnan Williams (ankle) also being declared out. Who knows? By kickoff, Joe Namath might be scratched from the ceremonial coin toss. Now, the Browns received some bad injury news, too. Safety Damarious Randall (concussion) was a surprise scratch on Saturday. The Browns also will be without linebacker Adarius Taylor (ankle), running back Dontrell Hilliard (concussion) and backup offensive tackle Kendall Lamm (knee), who were injured in last week’s game. But the Browns surely came out ahead in the battle of injury reports. The Jets are without their starting quarterback and their best defensive player. The Browns are without their free safety and some backups. All of which leaves the Browns with no excuses to erase the stench of a smelly opening-week loss.
Second down: Come get sum.
If the Browns gang-tackle the Jets like they did their former defensive coordinator in the pre-game banter, they should be fine. First, Odell Beckham Jr. charged Gregg Williams with targeting Beckham in a 2017 preseason game in Cleveland and telling his players, essentially, to take him out with an injury. Beckham’s explosive comments were the first time a player or coach accused Williams of the type of behavior that earned him a one-year NFL suspension in 2012. Then, Damarious Randall expressed contempt for Williams and said Williams “didn’t have a chance” at the head coach job won by Freddie Kitchens, even though Williams was 5-3 in the interim role last year. Randall also said “If Gregg would have got this job … you would have seen everybody asking to get out of here.” Williams is short-handed without Mosley and Quinnen Williams. But you have to believe he is cooking up some exotic blitzes aimed at taking quarterback Baker Mayfield out of his game, if not THE game.
Third down: Ready, Freddie?
Given the fact that Freddie Kitchens had a less-than-auspicious debut as Browns coach; and that his team committed a near-record 18 penalties, including five personal fouls; and that Tennessee cornerback Malcom Butler told Jarvis Landry the Browns had “no heart” during last week’s game; and that Kitchens for the first time received criticism for his call of a game (passing on second- and third-and-1, play-faking into the end zone, underusing Nick Chubb); and that Gregg Williams feels he was not given serious consideration for the job that Kitchens got; it probably would be a good idea for Kitchens to calm things down and secure his first win as an NFL head coach.
Fourth down: Kicking follies.
Through two weeks, kickers all over the place are having problems. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal and two PATs and future Hall of Famer Adam Viniateri missed two more PATs. Something’s in the air, and it has been there for a couple years now in regards to kickers. Last week Browns rookie Austin Seibert missed his first PAT and it sucked the air out of FirstEnergy Stadium. The Jets have changed kickers after Kaare Vedvik missed a field goal and two PATs in the Jets’ 1-point loss last week. The Jets promptly jettisoned Vedvik and replaced him with Sam Ficken, who has never kicked in a regular-season NFL game and has been waived by five teams. So this is the second week in a row a Browns opponent is unleashing a brand-new kicker against them.
Prediction: Browns, 24-10.
My record: 0-1.