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After Beating the Rams, How Can the Jets Slow Down the Browns?

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) scrambles away from Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) and throws the ball during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, December 20, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

Throughout the offseason, reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange and Olivia Landis will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.

Today's question: After beating the Rams, how can the Jets slow down the Browns?

EA: It's a tougher assignment. The Jets won't have their best defensive player because Quinnen Williams (head/neck) was placed on injured reserve. A breakout performer, Williams was outstanding in his final 2020 performance, registering 4 tackles and a sack against the Rams. And look further down the middle of the Jets' defense and Harvey Langi, who has been starting alongside Neville Hewitt, was placed on IR this week with a neck injury. The Green & White could start Bryce Hager, who has collected 5 special teams stops in 2020, with Hewitt. While Williams leads the team in sacks with 7 this season, he's been excellent against the run. According to NextGen Stats, he leads the NFL with a 7.1% of stops for zero or negative yards among players with at least 200 snaps. The Browns have an elite offensive line, a two-headed dynamo at running back with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and a bunch of active tight ends. The Jets have to get big performances out of Folorusno Fatukasi and Hewitt, and then get after Baker Mayfield. This is a balanced Cleveland attack and Mayfield has been hot of late. Interim defensive coordinator Frank Bush had a masterful game plan against the Rams, so it will be interesting to see how he dials it up in Week 16.

EG: It starts with controlling the line of scrimmage. The Jets did a good job stymieing the Rams defensive line last week, holding the unit to 2 sacks and 1 QB hit. The Green & White will have another tough test up front with the Browns defensive line led by DE Myles Garrett, whose 11 sacks are tied for No. 5 in the NFL. He's accompanied by Olivier Vernon, who has 7 sacks and 13 QB hits, former Jet Sheldon Richardson (4.5 sacks, 10 QB hits) and Larry Ogunjobi (2.5 sacks, 5 QB hits). If the Jets are able to provide Sam Darnold with a clean pocket, he could take advantage of the NFL's No. 21 pass defense (246.5 yds/g) and No. 23 scoring unit (26.7 pts/g). Defensively, that unit is now without DL Quinnen Williams and LB Harvey Langi and will face the league's No. 10 rushing offense (152.6 yds/g) led by Nick Chubb. Chubb is fifth in the NFL with 931 yards and leads RBs averaging 5.6 yards per carry. The Browns OL is also effective in the pass. QB Baker Mayfield has been sacked 7 times since Week 7, the second fewest in that span. In addition to controlling the line of scrimmage, the Jets need to play complementary football like last week and capitalize in the red zone (2 of 4 vs. LAR).

RL: Job One for the Jets in slowing down the Browns is to slow down the run. Getting Foley Fatukasi back (but losing Quinnen Williams) helps the run defense, which must win more battles than they lose vs. Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Cleveland's rushing offense. Mayfield has been hard to sack but so was Jared Goff, who was toppled three times last week, so perhaps interim DC Frank Bush will dial up some exotic rushes. Finally, the D can prevail only with some help from its friends on O. This plan didn't work at Seattle but I'll dust it off again. Mayfield and Cleveland are likely to score (although only 20 at MetLife vs. Giants last week), so score with them. The Browns have allowed 45 TDs, tied for seventh-most in the NFL. Their pass defense is 22nd overall. Even with DE Myles Garrett cranking it up (11 sacks), Browns are 13th in sack rate. So LT Mekhi Becton needs to find an advantage over Garrett to give Sam Darnold time to really find his top WRs plus rejuvenated TE Chris Herndon.

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