The New York Jets enter Week 2 with a matchup against the Cleveland Browns that showcases a story entrenched with a myriad of statistics.
Throughout the season, I’ll be previewing the New York Jets‘ opponent each week with a look at their greatest strengths and weaknesses from a statistical standpoint.
Let’s dive into some key numbers on the Cleveland Browns heading into this Sunday’s season-opening AFC East clash.
Strength: Run blocking
Not too much went well for Cleveland in its 30-point loss to open the season, but their rushing attack was one positive they could leave the game with.
Against Tennessee, the Browns ran the football 20 times and gained 102 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, which ranks as the ninth-best mark in the NFL.
Overall, Cleveland posted a rushing DVOA of +2.0%, the 13th-best mark of Week 1.
The Browns offensive line struggled mightily in pass protection, but they deserve some credit for their run-blocking performance. In Week 1, the Browns averaged 4.93 adjusted line yards-per-carry, which ranked a solid 14th in the league. Adjusted line yards per carry is a metric that aims to showcase how well an offensive line performed in the run-blocking phase, weighing the value of each rushing attempt in accordance with the line’s responsibility.
Nick Chubb had a nice day running the ball, gaining 75 yards on 17 carries (4.4 per attempt). However, he was only credited with one avoided tackle — another credit towards the run blocking of the unit upfront.
Cleveland’s offense also mustered a couple of successful runs from other players. Jarvis Landry picked up 10 yards and a first down on a handoff, while Dontrell Hilliard punched in a four-yard touchdown.
Weakness: Pass protection
While Cleveland’s run game seems to be in good shape, the pass protection needs to be a lot better than it was in Week 1.
Baker Mayfield took five sacks against the Titans, tied for the second-highest total of Week 1. Cleveland’s 11.6 percent sack rate allowed currently ranked as the week’s sixth-worst mark, while their 41 sack yards allowed was the worst total in the league.
In particular, the Browns need to see better play from their tackles.
The left side was a mess against Tennessee. Starter Greg Robinson was disqualified from the game, and he was replaced by Kendall Lamm, who played only three snaps before leaving with an injury. Lamm was replaced by Justin McCray, who struggled in relief. McCray allowed a team-high four pressures in only 31 pass-blocking snaps, with one of those a sack. He also had a false start penalty.
On the right side, starter Chris Hubbard had a rough game. He allowed two sacks, one of which occurred in the end zone for a safety. He was also called for three penalties. Two of those were holding calls, and the other was a false start that helped set up the safety that occurred on the next play.
Offensive lines are supposed to benefit from home-field advantage perhaps more so than any other position. As Cleveland prepares to hit the road for their first away game of the season, it’s not a great sign that their offensive front struggled to protect Baker Mayfield on their home field in the season opener.
Strength: Third downs
Cleveland’s defense really struggled against the Titans, so any praise feels like cherry-picking, but they did do a legitimately good job getting off the field on third down.
The Browns allowed the Titans to convert on just 2-of-10 third downs, a 20 percent rate that was tied for the fourth-lowest mark of Week 1.
Steve Wilks’ defense was able to win the early downs and force Tennessee into long third downs, helping them do a good job in those situations. The Titans faced an average of 10.6 yards to go on third down, the fourth-largest average distance of the week.
Strong run defense on second down was the key for Cleveland’s success on third down. Across six second down carries outside of the red zone, the Browns allowed only 3.5 yards per attempt and just one first down. The 16.7 percent first down rate allowed by Cleveland on second down carries outside the red zone tied them for the eighth-best mark in the league.
Marcus Mariota’s passing attack enjoyed plenty of success against the Browns secondary. Cleveland allowed a passer rating of 133.3 in Week 1, the sixth-highest mark of the week. Mariota completed 14 of 24 passes for 248 yards (10.3 per attempt), three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
Cleveland allowed a whopping total of three 40-plus yard passing plays to Tennessee, finding all sorts of ways to do it.
Rookie A.J. Brown was responsible for two of those big plays. He picked up a 47-yard bomb over the middle, as Browns cornerback Denzel Ward thought he had help over the middle. Brown made another big play as he notched a 51-yard catch-and-run, after catching a dig route 11 yards down the field. He broke multiple tackles on his way to 40 yards after the catch.
The biggest of the three splash plays was a 75-yard touchdown reception for running back Derrick Henry. On a simple screenplay, Henry caught the ball five yards behind the line of scrimmage and ran 80 yards to the end zone without being touched.
Special Teams tidbit: Jamie Gillan may be a stud
Rookie punter Jamie Gillan, who went undrafted out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, had a strong debut for the Browns. He didn’t allow any of his five punts to be returned, forcing four fair catches and having one kick downed by a teammate. Great hangtime was the key for Gillan, as his 4.75-second hang time average ranked as the second-best mark of the week.
Cleveland’s punting DVOA of +1.9% tied for the second-best mark of Week 1. Gillan’s average of 46.6 net yards per punt ranked fourth-best among punters with at least two attempts in Week 1.