Jets vs Browns: Top 3 keys to victory for Gang Green

Sep 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) is tackled by Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (23) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) is tackled by Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (23) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports /

As Week 8 brings football fans the Jets vs Browns matchup, here are the top three keys to a victory by Gang Green.

Sep 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) is tackled by Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (23) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets are back on the road as they face the hapless Cleveland Browns in Week 8. Gang Green came away with a 24-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, but remain out of playoff talk at 2-5. Hue Jackson’s group, on the other hand, is 0-7 and it’s not hard to see why. Given how these two teams have kicked off the year, this contest shouldn’t be flashy.

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Head coach Todd Bowles and his Jets began their outing vs. Baltimore in typical fashion. Lachlan Edwards muffed a snap at his own 15-yard line and the Ravens special teams scooped it up for a score. The Jets followed the blunder up with a punt before Geno Smith hit Quincy Enunwa for a 69-yard touchdown. On the next drive, Smith tore his ACL and Ryan Fitzpatrick had to finish the game. Is the Harvard graduate past his early season struggles? We’ll find out soon enough.

The Browns are coming off a 31-17 loss to Cincinnati in which their defense looked inept. The Bengals had 559 net yards of offense and they didn’t even win the possession battle. Andy Dalton had just 19 completions while they ran for 271 yards on 30 rushes. Given that showing, they could be in similar troubling this week. Even if New York’s offense gets back to doing what they did in Weeks 3-6, they can still find ways to score on Cleveland.

The Jets are clear favorites when you look at the matchup on paper. Both teams are nothing special, although the Browns have absolutely no talent. Josh McCown is expected to start and it honestly doesn’t matter. When Terrelle Pryor is your best receiver, there’s only so much you can do. A loss in the ‘North Coast’ for Bowles would be humiliating, so they can’t afford to take this one lightly. Here are three keys to victory for New York.

Next: 3. Blitz heavily

3. Blitz heavily

When Gang Green puts pressure on the quarterback, the rest of the defense flourishes. The cornerbacks have an easier time in coverage and the safeties can make plays on the ball. When they don’t apply pressure, things get bad very quickly. Quarterbacks can pick the secondary apart with ease and third down conversions become no problem. You could say that for any defense with a weak pass rush, however, the Jets have been extremely concerning in that department.

It’s safe to say that Lorenzo Mauldin is hitting a sophomore slump. The Louisville product has a total of just seven tackles and 1.5 sacks through the first seven games. Third-round rookie Jordan Jenkins is somehow producing even worse. He has a mere nine tackles and no sacks since overcoming the calf injury that sidelined him early on. It’s gotten pathetic enough to where Bowles has actually used Sheldon Richardson at outside linebacker in an attempt to make up for the slack.

For the Jets to find any luck in bringing down McCown, they must blitz heavily. The Browns have an atrocious offensive line that can’t keep any of their quarterbacks healthy, so New York needs to throw the kitchen sink at the unit from start to finish. Send safeties, corners, linebackers, anyone on the defensive side of the ball. McCown has been itching to get back on the field, but there’s no doubt he dreads standing behind that offensive line. Release the dogs and get the quarterback dirty.

Next: 2. Utilize Buster Skrine properly

Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Buster Skrine (41) reacts as he celebrates a tackle against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

2. Utilize Buster Skrine properly

The Jets have been despicable with their use of Buster Skrine. The guy is a 5’9 nickel corner and they utilize him on the outside. As a result, he gets torched by receivers because most of the time they have a good three inches on him, sometimes more. It’s fairly head-scratching that Marcus Williams is used in the slot opposed to Skrine. He’s 5’11 and has thrived on the outside since joining the team in the middle of the 2014 campaign.

As the No. 2 corner, Skrine is left with no help. Mike Wallace had his way with him, John Brown and Michael Floyd did the week before as well as Sammie Coates against Pittsburgh. What made him so effective in 2015 was his ability to blitz and keep up with the little guys in the slot. In the contest vs. the Dolphins in London, he brutalized Ryan Tannehill by coming off the edge constantly and disrupting the pocket. Why hasn’t that gameplan been revisited this season?

A meeting with his former team could be just what he needs. Andrew Hawkins is a speedy wideout that lines up in the slot and creates matchup problems for defenses given his 5’7 frame. This is where Bowles can finally use Skrine as the nickel and get the production at corner he’s looking for. If Williams got burnt by Coates, he’d probably get toasted by Hawkins too. Put Skrine back where he belongs and stops overthinking defensively.

Next: 1. Start fast

Oct 23, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Matt Forte (22) celebrates his touchdown run during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Ravens 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

1. Start fast

The Jets haven’t been impressive in the first quarter since Week 2 in Buffalo. They came out strong against the Bengals in the season opener but gave away plenty of points with poor red zone play calling and special teams mishaps. If they were to start fast vs. Cleveland, they’d win comfortably. The Browns are 0-7 and all New York needs is a solid first quarter to get the crowd restless.

For this to happen, Matt Forte needs to pick up where he left off in Week 7. The veteran rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries while catching four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore’s defense is more formidable than Cleveland’s, so there’s no excuse for him to disappear yet again. Rotating Bilal Powell into the mix wouldn’t hurt either. The rushing attack is the key ingredient in getting off to a hot start.

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Fitzpatrick must also take care of the ball. With the way he’s been talking in front of the media, a turnover of any sort would make him look pretty stupid. A league-high 11 interceptions already make him look bad enough. If you’re going to act cocky, you have to back it up on the field. The Browns defense can help him do that, although offensive coordinator Chan Gailey can’t squander it by getting conservative. Fitzpatrick claims he should’ve never lost his job, so let him prove it by airing it out.