Browns, Jets go to veteran QBs
CLEVELAND — The old guys are back under center for the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets, aware they’re not part of the future.
So Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick will do what they can to save the present on Sunday when the Jets (2-5) visit star-crossed Cleveland (0-7).
New York coach Todd Bowles benched the 33-year-old Fitzpatrick after the veteran threw 11 interceptions while leading the Jets to a woeful 1-5 start. Geno Smith stepped in with his first start since the 2014 season finale and didn’t even last a half, going down with a knee injury in the second quarter against Baltimore.
With Smith being placed on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, it’s back to Fitzpatrick. For now at least.
“I guess you never say never in the NFL,” Fitzpatrick said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen. It was a difficult week for me and I said that to (the media) and said that to my teammates and everybody, but that’s behind us. It’s over. Nobody in this league feels sorry for you.”
The Jets certainly won’t get any sympathy from Cleveland, which has seen the habitually revolving door at quarterback speed up at an almost comical rate. Two months into the season, 49 players have attempted at least nine passes. Six of them are Browns.
Yes, six. No other team has used more than three.
And now the job goes back to the 37-year-old McCown, who returns for the first time since breaking his collarbone in a Week 2 loss to Baltimore. McCown replaces rookie Cody Kessler, who is dealing with a concussion sustained in last week’s loss to Cincinnati.
“If (McCown) is out there, it means he is the best guy standing right now,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “Will it be a boost? It is a boost just to have any of our quarterbacks playing right now.”
“Everybody wants to talk about the interceptions,” Jackson said of Fitzpatrick. “That happens sometimes. People go through that. I think he has gotten himself back upright, and playing and knows what to do and how to do it. He is a big challenge.”
Other things to look for as Cleveland tries to avoid its worst start in 31 years against New York and it’s on again/off again/ on again bearded quarterback:
LITTLE RESISTANCE: For all the hand-wringing over the quarterback situation in Cleveland, the bigger issue with the Browns is the other side of the ball. Cleveland has given up 400 yards or more five times already and ranks 30th in yards allowed and points allowed. Jackson became so infuriated while watching the Bengals race up and down the field last week on their way to 559 yards in a 31-17 Cincinnati win he reamed out the defense and spent the final minutes of the game with his headset off in disgust.
BETTER DAYS: The latest iteration of the Browns has made the playoffs once since the franchise’s return in 1999. It will pay tribute to better days when it honors the 1986 team that went 12-4 and reached the AFC championship game. More than two dozen members of the 1986 club will be on hand, including coach Marty Schottenheimer, quarterback Bernie Kosar, running back Earnest Byner and linebacker Clay Matthews. The Browns fell to Denver in overtime of the AFC title game when John Elway led the Broncos on “The Drive.”
LOOK WHAT WE FOUND!: After entering last Sunday tied for 31st in the NFL with four takeaways, the Jets’ defense got two interceptions — on consecutive Ravens possessions. Marcus Williams had the only other two interceptions this season, and they came in the first two games. New York is now tied for 26th in the league in defensive takeaways. That’s after the Jets finished tied for third in the league with 30 overall in 2015.
“We struggled early on to force turnovers as a defense, but we’re known to force turnovers,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “We were one of the top defenses in the league last year. Once one comes, they start coming in bunches.”
FORTE REBOUNDS: Matt Forte shook off an early-season slump to show he’s still got some moves with the football. The Jets running back rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries against the Ravens, who entered as the No. 1 rush defense. It was his second 100-yard game with New York and he also caught a TD pass, his first as a member of the Jets.
After a solid start with 196 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries in his first two games, Forte ran for just 164 yards and no TDs on 50 carries in the four games that followed.
“Whether it’s running or catching the ball, it doesn’t matter if I get 30, 25, 20 (touches) or whatever it is or however it shakes out,” Forte said. “I’m just trying to get positive yards, keep the chains moving, score touchdowns so we can score points and let our defense do what they do.”