The Browns are looking to be a postseason contender this year and have invested plenty of money into a team that ended up 8-9 in the 2021 season. The last time these teams met, it was an upset win for the Jets towards the end of the 2020 campaign, as they exploited Covid-19 absences to beat the Browns 23-16. They’ll be the underdogs again on Sunday, as DraftKings Sportsbook have the Jets as 6.5-point underdogs.
The controversial big money deal for Deshaun Watson was the biggest story of the offseason, but won’t affect Sunday’s matchup because Watson is still suspended. With Baker Mayfield now in Carolina, Jacoby Brissett is the temporary starter and he outduelled Mayfield in a 26-24 opening day win.
Brissett, whose main weakness is throwing downfield, started five games last season, winning two. He’s been regarded as a dual threat, but that’s not really the case, as he has just 99 rushing yards on 40 carries over the past three seasons. He has rushed for 13 scores in his career though, and is adept at avoiding pressure. He was sacked just once on Sunday.
Joshua Dobbs and Kellen Mond are also on the roster with Dobbs currently listed as the number two quarterback.
Nick Chubb, who made his third straight pro bowl appearance last season, paced the Browns’ offense with 141 rushing yards on Sunday. He had over 1,200 yards and eight scores on the ground in 2021.
The Browns reserves have also been productive running behind a strong offensive line. Kareem Hunt averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season and D’Ernest Johnson averaged 5.3. Hunt had a key role on Sunday with four catches and two scores.
Jerome Ford was drafted in the fifth round to provide depth and wide receivers Demetric Felton and Anthony Schwartz can also contribute in the running game.
The Browns were able to trade for a big-money receiver during the offseason when they acquired Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys for a fifth round pick and a day three pick-swap. However, he had an inauspicious debut with just 17 yards on three catches.
Instead, it was Donovan Peoples-Jones who emerged as Brissett’s favorite target on Sunday. Brissett threw his way 11 times and he caught six passes for 60 yards, including three contested catches. Peoples-Jones showcased his playmaking abilities by leading the team with a 17.6 yards per catch average in 2021.
Jakeem Grant is on injured reserve so the Browns may need rookies David Bell and Michael Woods to step up. Bell was drafted in the third round while Woods was a sixth rounder.
Both Schwartz and Felton are players the Browns will look to get the ball to in space and they will each carry the ball from time to time as well as catching passes. Schwartz racked up 39 yards on three touches on Sunday.
At tight end, Austin Hooper departed in free agency but David Njoku remains with the team. He led them with four touchdown catches last season.
Harrison Bryant, who caught 21 passes in 2021, remains with the team in a backup tight end role and Jesse James was brought in to add depth.
The Browns’ offensive line is spearheaded by their starting guard tandem, each of whom started all 17 games last year and went to the pro bowl. Joel Bitonio was actually the leading vote-getter, while Wyatt Teller is a dominant blocker, but did have 11 penalties last year.
At center, the Browns didn’t bring back JC Tretter and then had a few injuries during the offseason, including one to Nick Harris, who remains on injured reserve. Ethan Pocic is now the starting center.
At tackle, former first round pick Jedrick Wills and veteran Jack Conklin are the starters, although Conklin is making his way back from an injury and listed as questionable. Reserve James Hudson started in his place against Carolina and did a solid job. Wills gave up five sacks as he was the only Browns player to surrender more than four in 2021.
Michael Dunn, a versatile reserve, played 11 snaps as a jumbo package tight end in Sunday’s game and Hjalte Froholdt is the other main interior backup. Chris Hubbard is another player with starting experience at the tackle position but he’s been listed as out for Sunday. Joe Haeg was a recent addition who could back up at guard or tackle, though.
The Browns have a fearsome pass rush with one of the best edge rusher tandems in the league but they also did a great job against the run in the win over Carolina. The Panthers were held to just 2.8 yards per carry.
Pro bowler Myles Garrett combined with Jadeveon Clowney to rack up 25 sacks last season as Garrett led them in sacks, hits and tackles for loss. He continued in that vein in the season opener with two of the Browns’ four sacks on Sunday.
Taven Bryant and Jordan Elliott are listed as the starters on the inside with Tommy Togiai and fourth round rookie Perrion Winfrey backing them up. Roderick Perry was elevated from the practice squad, which may be connected to Winfrey missing practice during the week for disciplinary reasons.
Chase Winovich and rookies Isaiah Thomas and Alex Wright are available to back up Clowney and Garrett, but Wright was the only one of the three to get any defensive reps in the opener.
At linebacker, the Browns are anchored by Anthony Walker, who is in his second season with the team having begun his career in Indianapolis. Walker led the Browns with 113 tackles in 2021.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, last year’s second round pick, lines up alongside Walker while both Sione Takitaki and Jacob Phillips get situational reps. Phillips had a couple of missed tackles on Sunday. Tony Fields is also on the roster and Jordan Kunaszyk was elevated from the practice squad for Sunday’s game to round out this group.
The leader in the secondary is pro bowl cornerback Denzel Ward, who was tied for the team lead with three interceptions and 10 passes defensed last season.
The other starter is Greg Newsome, who will often line up in the slot. Robbie Anderson got behind Newsome for a 75-yard touchdown on Sunday.
The Browns play a lot of nickel defense with three corners on the field and third round rookie Martin Emerson was getting those third cornerback reps on Sunday. AJ Green would be the next man up with Greedy Williams, a starter last year, on injured reserve.
At safety, Grant Delpit and John Johnson are the starters. Delpit gave up a 50-yard gain on Sunday, but also intercepted a pass, while Johnson had a key horse collar penalty to set up the go-ahead field goal. Johnson was tied with Ward for the team lead with three interceptions in 2021.
D’Anthony Bell and Ronnie Harrison provide depth at safety, while Thomas Graham and Richard LeCounte are more likely to contribute on special teams, if active.
The Browns drafted Cade York in the fourth round in April and the move already paid dividends in the opener as York nailed a 58-yard game winner to cap off a 4-for-4 debut.
Corey Bojorquez is the Browns’ new punter having been with the Packers last year. The Browns are his fifth NFL team.
In the return game, Felton is listed as the main punt and kick returner, although Ford did return one kickoff last week. Schwartz, Peoples-Jones and Johnson have all had some return experience in the past. Felton muffed one punt on Sunday, although the Browns recovered it.
In kick coverage, Green is one of their primary gunners. Takataki, who led the team in special teams snaps on Sunday, has also been productive.