635 days. That’s how long it had been since the city of Cleveland had been able to celebrate a Browns victory. That long, painful streak ended last night thanks to the arrival of rookie QB Baker Mayfield.
The game got off to a slow and very Thursday Night Football-like beginning as both teams traded multiple three-and-out drives in the first quarter. The visiting Jets finally got into a groove, scoring a pair of second-quarter touchdowns, both coming on Isaiah Crowell runs. In a revenge game, Crowell finished with 51 total yards and the two scores.
The game changed in the middle of the second quarter when veteran starting QB Tyrod Taylor took yet another hard hit and suffered a head injury, sending him to the locker room. That unfortunate injury gave Browns fans exactly what they had been chanting for much of the game and looking forward to for months ... Baker Mayfield. The first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft entered the game and immediately led the team to a scoring drive as the Browns kicked a field goal to cut the Jets lead to 14-3 as halftime approached. Mayfield threw just four passes in the first half but still threw for more yardage than both Taylor and Jets rookie starter Sam Darnold. That says a lot about Mayfield as well as the struggles of both starters.
Mayfield and the Browns dominated the second half as the Jets managed just three points, while the rookie led three scoring drives and even caught the game-tying two-point conversion. Mayfield totaled 201 passing yards in just over a half of play and veteran RB Carlos Hyde, celebrating his own birthday and expecting the birth of his child, scored both of the Browns’ touchdowns and finished with 103 total yards.
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Although the Cleveland pass-catchers started the game slowly, there was a new energy present when Mayfield entered the game. WR Jarvis Landry ended with eight receptions for 103 yards. Rookie WR Antonio Callaway, expected to be the top beneficiary of the Josh Gordon trade was targeted ten times but caught just four balls for 20 yards. His involvement is definitely a positive sign moving forward. Starting TE David Njoku had seen a great deal of opportunity through two games, targeted seven times in each contest, but had struggled with his efficiency. This one was the opposite. Njoku saw just two targets, both after Taylor left the game, but he caught each for a total of 36 yards.
For the Jets, Darnold threw for just 169 scoreless yards, throwing two interceptions to the hounding Browns defense. While it was Crowell finding the end zone, RB Bilal Powell was the much better runner, overall. Powell finished with 14 carries for 73 yards, though he didn’t see a single target in the passing game. WR Quincy Enunwa again led the team, catching six of eight targets for 57 yards. This low-volume pass offense will continue to limit all pass-catchers. Struggling WR Robby Anderson posted a 2/22 line and lost a fumble which led to a Browns touchdown. He looks like a fantasy bust.
Browns HC Hue Jackson has drawn much criticism after he refused to even give his first overall picks snaps with the first-teamers in camp. After the game, he was asked about the quarterback position moving forward and continued the same level of stubbornness. Jackson suggested he would need to “watch the tape” before naming a starting QB for the remainder of the season. Pro Football Focus’ Scott Barrett noted after the game that 87% of Mayfield’s pass attempts on the night were considered catchable, while Taylor ranks last among 32 qualifying quarterbacks with a 53.5% catchable pass rate.
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In Other News
After exiting the Vikings Week Two game early, RB Dalvin Cook (hamstring) remains out of practice. Cook has insisted that he is fine and that he would be ready for Week Three, but as the Vikings face the winless Bills, it could be wise to rest the starter. If Cook does miss the game, or even if he is limited, veteran RB Latavius Murray would see a huge bump and become a solid fantasy option in all formats.
Bills RB LeSean McCoy is already dealing with a miserable start to his team’s season along with a rib injury. Now, his ex-girlfriend has reiterated her claim that McCoy was behind the July burglary and assault that took place in her home. Other accusations have also been made against McCoy recently. The back was able to get in some limited practices this week and is expected to play against the Vikings' strong defense in Week Three.
Steelers WR Antonio Brown finally discussed some of his earlier comments regarding a trade demand. Brown said, “obviously I don’t want to be traded” and called his Tweet suggesting the Steelers trade him a “stupid remark online.” Expect things to be back to normal for Brown and the Steelers this coming Monday against the Bucs.
The Eagles could be without veteran RBs Jay Ajayi (back) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) when they face the Colts on Sunday. Neither player practiced Wednesday. If both, or either back misses the game, it could be a huge opportunity for second-year RB Corey Clement.
Discussing his backfield on SiriusXM, Bengals HC Marvin Lewis said rookie RB Mark Walton would serve as the primary backup to veteran RB Giovani Bernard while starter Joe Mixon (knee) was out of action. Most concerning was Lewis’ comment that Bernard and Walton would “shoulder the load for the next few weeks.” This means fantasy players should check their waiver wires for Walton and we also might expect Mixon to be out longer than expected.
Dolphins HC Adam Gase was non-committal on the status of WR DeVante Parker (finger) for Week Three. Most expected Parker to play last week after getting in nearly a full week of practice. Now, the Dolphins might continue to wait. ... Chargers veteran TE Antonio Gates missed practice with an illness. Gates has just two receptions on the season. ... Cardinals rookie WR Christian Kirk was involved in a car accident and missed practice. Although he was listed with a back injury, it is not expected to keep him out of action in Week Three…After missing Week Tow, Titans QB Marcus Mariota was able to practice Wednesday and remains hopeful that he will play in Week Three. ... This is no surprise, but Falcons RB Devonta Freeman remained out of practice with a knee injury. WR Julio Jones (calf) also missed practice, but suggested it was only a precaution. ... Among the many players logging a “limited” Wednesday practice were: 49ers WR Marquise Goodwin (thigh), Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch (shoulder), WR Cole Beasley (ankle), WR Chris Godwin (toe), Patriots WR Josh Gordon (hamstring), Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (ankle), Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring), Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle/thumb), Jaguars RB T.J. Yeldon (ankle), Titans RB Derrick Henry (back), Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery (shoulder), Saints WR Ted Ginn (knee), Redskins WR Paul Richardson (knee), Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), Colts TE Jack Doyle (hip), Colts RB Marlon Mack (foot) and Giants TE Evan Engram (ankle).