*1. Get to winning
After two near-misses, the Browns hope they have better fortune in their Thursday night bout with the Jets. Cleveland tied the Steelers in the season opener and lost a heartbreaker to the Saints in New Orleans this past weekend. Now, at home in front of a national audience, a new-and-improved Browns team believe it’s poised to capture its first win since December 2016. “We’ve come a long way,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “We think we’re headed in the right direction as an organization and as a football team, but the only thing that can validate that is winning,”
*2. A familiar foe
The Browns spent months studying then-draft prospect Sam Darnold before selecting Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick. Cleveland hopes its research on Darnold, the former USC standout-turned-Jets starting quarterback, gives it an edge Thursday night.
“We're going to use every piece of information that we can, you can believe it," coach Jackson said with a smile Tuesday. "We have an idea of who we're playing — there’s no doubt. He’s a tough, competitive young man. He’s not going to shy away from anything, and he’s going to stand there and try to make plays when need be and doesn’t get rattled much.”
Darnold, selected third by New York, has completed 66 percent of his passes for 532 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. “He’s thrown for a lot of yards in two weeks. He’s turned the ball over a little bit, like most young guys will. But, he’s playing good for them. He’s playing within their system. Obviously, they trust him. They are throwing the ball a lot with him,” Jackson said.
“He’s able to make plays outside of the pocket with his legs. He has some good guys to throw it to. He's making progress, I'm sure, in their system. I'm sure that they feel very comfortable with him being their quarterback. They’re 1-1 right now. He has an opportunity to come in here Thursday night and make it a tough night for us.”
*3. Takeaways all day
In 2017, the Browns forced 13 turnovers. In two games this season, they already have eight. That dynamic, Jackson said, has been and will be a critical component to Cleveland’s success this fall. “We have got to keep it going. As I say every week when I talk to you guys, that is what we needed to do heading into the year,” Jackson said.
“That has been an emphasis for our football team to get more turnovers on defense and do not turn it over on offense and be on the plus side of this thing. It's the key to our victory. It truly is. The plan is to go in and do everything we can to make them give it to us.”
*4. Moving on
In what’s already been a short week to prepare, the dominating storyline surrounding the Browns has been Josh Gordon, the former star receiver whom Cleveland traded to New England on Monday. While the Browns have maintained his departure hasn’t been a distraction, they’ll still need to find a way to replace the talented but troubled player -- a former Pro Bowler who was expected to play a key role for them this season.
“I don't think it will have a difference on us at all," running back Duke Johnson said. "I think we always had that kind of next man up mentality, regardless of who it is or what position it is. It's always about the next-man up. I'm just hoping for whatever reason that he's OK with his life or whatever's going on with him. I hope he finds his way.”
Gordon spent six embattled seasons in Cleveland and returned to the field in December following a nearly three-year hiatus.