Cleveland at Jacksonville: Five Things to Know
I circled this game on my calendar after the NFL Draft because I thought it would not only be the game we see both Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel in the a game at the same time, but I also thought it would become the barometer for both franchises.
The idea was that Jacksonville would have three wins by now and Cleveland would be kicking themselves for not selecting Teddy Bridgewater or Derrick Carr. The game is a barometer of sorts, still, but there is no matchup between the rookies and both club are certainly headed in the wrong direction.
Cleveland appears to be on the road to recovery with Brian Hoyer behind center as Manziel waits. The Jaguars are still winless although Bortles is the toast of the town and the best rookie to play in the league since Andrew Luck got drafted.
This is actually a must win for both teams. The Jaguars need a win to find relevance and the Browns need a win to justify keeping a rookie with plenty of moxie and star power on the bench. For those reasons alone, this has the makings of a really good game. Here are five things you need to know,
THE BROWNS HAVE A PROBLEM
Yes, they are surging and have played well of late – beating The Saints and the Steelers, but this team may have a quarterback issue on its hands. Bryan Hoyer is playing well and leading this team to wins. All the while, Johnny Manziel is on the bench. If the team continues to win, Manziel will not see the field.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Brian Hoyer's future with the Browns comes down to this: Do the Browns still believe that Johnny Manziel can wreck this league?
If so, then they probably won't be willing to commit starter money to Hoyer, which could be in the neighborhood of $12 million to $13 million a year.
But if they have their doubts about Manziel, then it's time for the Browns to start trying to wrap up Hoyer to a long-term deal before his price skyrockets.
ESTABLISHING THE RUN PARAMOUNT
The running back unit does not scare anyone in the NFL. The Jaguars need to establish a running game early to give the passing game some momentum.
When it comes to the running game, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Wednesday afternoon what offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch emphasized in the morning:
The Jaguars are going to keep trying. And if it’s not easy at first, they’ll keep trying some more.
Bradley discussed the running game following what he called a good practice as the team began preparing for the Browns, who have won their last two games and who have improved significantly since the Jaguars won in Cleveland 32-28 last December.
The Browns are a team committed to the run, and with an improving offensive line, they have found an identity on offense.
JACKSONVILLE MUST FINISH
The last two weeks have shown the defense is getting better. The past two weeks should have been victories for the Jaguars. This team must finish strong.
Improvement is great.
And not only has Blake Bortles without question improved in his brief time as a starter, the rookie quarterback has given the offense energy – and given the Jaguars more hope.
All of that’s true, and all of that’s great for the future, but as the Jaguars approach midseason without a victory for the second consecutive season, Bortles – preparing this week for his fourth NFL start – said the focus isn’t on simply gaining yards, or moving first-down chains.
Now, the focus is finishing.
“Those are obviously the things that finish drives – a missed block here, a missed throw here, a whatever … those things stick out when you start getting close. Those are obviously the things we have to tighten up and improve on.”
A FAST START FOR A BROWNS PASS RUSH
With 10 sacks on the year, the Browns rank 19th in the NFL. That’s not terrible but it’s not a number to be proud of, either. In terms of more advanced pass rushing numbers, ProFootballFocus.com ranks the Browns 30th in the NFL.
Coach Mike Pettine says you can’t solely judge the pass rush based on numbers. Last week against Pittsburgh was a solid improvement for the players who chase after the quarterback.
“It’s something we feel we can improve on,” said Pettine. “I felt we did a good job. We got to (Steelers QB) Ben (Roethlisberger) a couple times, but I also think we affected him more than a few, as well. We hit him, and I think those hits are cumulative over the course of a game. When you hit a quarterback over three quarters and, all of a sudden, in that fourth quarter they’re chasing ghosts or feeling ghosts a little bit.”
This may be the week that the Jaguars break through. I know, I said that again last week, but the leash is a little tighter on the running game and while Blake Bortles is getting better, this week and next could lead to two wins.
JAGUARS 24 BROWNS 16