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Breaking down the Jets opposition: Cleveland Browns

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets face the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night. Let’s take an in-depth look at their roster, depth chart and system to assess who to be wary of on gameday.

Quarterbacks

Tyrod Taylor was a smart offseason pick-up by the Browns and he’s currently keeping first overall pick Baker Mayfield on the bench. However, his passing numbers so far have been pretty underwhelming.

Taylor has rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown in the first two games, though, so that’s a major concern with how badly the Jets handled the read option against Miami. Taylor is 3-2 in five career starts against the Jets, accounting for 10 total touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Offensive Line

The Browns offensive line hasn’t got off to a great start so far, with Taylor having been sacked 10 times. However, their interior group is solid and remains intact having played every snap together last season. Joel Bitonio is the left guard, JC Tretter the center and Kevin Zeitler the other guard. Zeitler is the second-highest paid guard in the league and Bitonio also earns $10 million per year.

At right tackle, the Browns brought in Chris Hubbard, who was one of the best free agent tackles on the market. However, he’s off to a slow start after giving up a sack in each of the first two games. The left tackle is undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison, who had three penalties in his first game, but fared better in week two.

Greg Robinson, the former number two overall pick, is their back-up at tackle and they have depth at guard with veteran Earl Watford and second round rookie Austin Corbett.

Running Backs

Carlos Hyde was another veteran addition who signed a three-year deal in the offseason to replace Isaiah Crowell. Hyde has never had a thousand-yard season but averaged over 950 and seven scores over the past two years.

Duke Johnson is the third down back and he showed his abilities with a long catch-and-runon which he broke several tackles in last year’s loss to the Jets .

So far, the top two are each averaging less than three yards per carry, but rookie Nick Chubb might be primed for a bigger role, having gained 35 yards on five carries so far.

Pass catchers

Jarvis Landry was another big-money acquisition in the offseason but this unit has taken a hit with Josh Gordon’s departure during the week. Landry was a player who mostly caught short passes with Miami, but he’s been more of a downfield threat so far in Cleveland and is off to a productive start with 12 catches for 175 yards.

With Gordon gone, rookie Antonio Callaway has already started to step up as he had what looked set to be the winning score on a deep ball against the Saints. Unfortunately, the Browns missed the extra point and then lost to a late field goal.

As a third option, Rashard Higgins is a good possession option that can perform out of the slot, but he’s had a few drops early on this season.

Cleveland signed journeyman Rod Streater during the week to add depth, as their only other two receivers are a pair of rookies - Damion Ratley and Derrick Willies.

At tight end, the Browns could be without Seth DeValve but David Njoku will start. Jamal Adams had his hands full with Njoku last season. Orson Charles and Darren Fells are listed as back-ups.

Defensive Line

There’s been a lot of turnover on the defensive line for the Browns, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that Myles Garrett, last year’s first overall pick, is their most dangerous player. He usually lines up on the right, so Kelvin Beachum is going to have a tough assignment.

Emmanuel Ogbah is the other starter but he’s injured too. If he can’t play, third round rookie Chad Thomas or recent waiver claim Anthony Zettel might get more playing time, but the primary back-up is probably Chris Smith. Smith, another new addition, is in his fifth year and has 7.5 career sacks.

Tackle Larry Ogunjobi is the Browns’ other burgeoning star on their defensive line. He was excellent against the run last year, but this year, he’s shown progress as a pass rusher with three sacks in the first two games.

Trevon Coley, a third-year undrafted player, is the other starter inside with recent waiver claim Carl Davis adding depth.

Linebackers

Cleveland’s highest paid player, Jamie Collins, was a disappointment last year, but Jets fans are well aware of his versatility and all-round skills from his New England day.

Last year, Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert played every snap but Kirksey has been absent from practice this week. James Burgess is an option to start, having done so nine times last year. Cleveland picked him up at the end of the 2016 season, at which point he was already on his fifth team despite being a rookie.

Fifth round rookie Genard Avery has made some good contributions on the outside but Tanner Vallejo - who lost a camp battle with ex-Jet Julian Stanford for a spot on Buffalo’s roster - hasn’t played yet on defense.

Defensive Backs

Fourth overall pick Denzel Ward got his season off to a good start with two interceptions in his first game, but he’s also been beaten for two touchdowns in coverage and had some issues with missing tackles, so the Jets might still look to target him.

The Browns struggled to find another starter, eventually settling on journeyman Terrance Mitchell who is on his sixth team and has five career interceptions.

However, EJ Gaines just returned from injury so may be a candidate to step up into that role. Gaines can also man the slot in the nickel. Another veteran, TJ Carrie, provides depth.

At safety, Damarious Randall was also added to the injury report and missed practice on Tuesday. If he’s unavailable, Derrick Kindred, a mid-round pick from a few years ago, has proven to be a reliable spot starter in the past.

The other starter is the athletic Jabrill Peppers, who was a late first-rounder last year. He usually plays as the deep safety and has started the season well.

Another veteran, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, can fill in at safety or as a nickel corner.

Special Teams

The Browns could be 2-0 if not for a series of costly missed kicks from their kicker Zane Gonzales who was dumped after the loss to the Saints. They claimed Greg Joseph, an undrafted rookie whose only NFL experience was three successful preseason kicks with Miami, to replace him.

Britton Colquitt is a highly regarded veteran punter, although the Browns allowed over 10 yards per punt return last season.

In the return game, Peppers is a threat, although he hasn’t had much success yet at the NFL level. He’s handling kicks and punts right now, but Callaway or Johnson could fill in if required.

In coverage, the Browns got rid of most of their most productive players from last year but the likes of Carrie, Kindred, Boddy-Calhoun and Burgess are among the main names to watch.