Browns vs Jets snap counts: Game reps together not the issue for much-maligned secondary
CLEVELAND − There's a million different ways to break down what happened on Sunday afternoon in the Browns' home opener.
When you get a result like the one produced − Jets 31, Browns 30 − you want to take a look at it from a variety of angles. What this space will try to do is try to see what can be gleaned from the amount of snaps that were played by various individuals during the course of the game.
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To show that it's not about the number of plays to determine the kind of scoring game it can be, the Browns actually ran fewer plays, but scored more points and gained more yards than the previous week. Cleveland ran 67 offensive plays, 13 fewer than a week earlier at Carolina.
The Jets, meanwhile, ran 70 offensive plays. It's the 11 in the final 1:55 that will haunt the Browns the most.
Specifically, it's one play in particular, a 66-yard Corey Davis touchdown catch, that really changed everything for Cleveland. So allow us to start with the group which has come under the biggest magnifying glass since the loss.
Grant Delpit, John Johnson III, Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II were together a lot
The Browns' secondary didn't get a lot of snaps together in the preseason, be it in practice or games. Both cornerbacks, Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II missed substantial time while recovering from injuries.
The group, though, has played a lot of snaps together in the first two games. Safety Grant Delpit is the only defensive player to have been on the field for all 123 defensive snaps this season. The other starting safety, John Johnson III, played every snap this past Sunday after playing all but one against the Panthers.
The two cornerbacks were the only other Browns defenders to play more than 81% of the snaps Sunday, as Newsome played 67 (96%) and Ward played 66 (94%). For Ward specifically, that was an uptick in amount of reps from the opener, when coach Kevin Stefanski acknowledged a certain pitch count of sorts as he played 45 of 53 snaps against Carolina.
That's a lot of snaps together for those four players, all of whom were together a lot a year ago. Yet, it was with those four on the field together the biggest play allowed in each of the last two games − the Davis touchdown Sunday and the 75-yard Robbie Anderson catch in the opener − occurred.
"That’s the thing I’m going to keep harping on – sending and receiving," Johnson said afterwards. "Guys are out there talking. It’s not like we aren’t communicating but we have to receive and we have to make sure we see it, like ‘I got you.’ Say it back time, you know. Lock eyes. It’s that extra step to make sure stuff like that doesn’t happen again.”
Rookie cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. played 52 snaps (74%) in the nickel package. Ronnie Harrison Jr. played 19 snaps (27%) in the three-safety look.
Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt couldn't be better together, because they weren't together
Why did the eight plays in the Carolina game where Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt lined up in together in the offensive formation seem like so much? Because it was comparatively to other games, such as against the Jets.
Chubb played 36 snaps out of 67 (54%) on his way to 87 rushing and 26 receiving yards. Hunt played the other 31 snaps (46%), gaining 58 rushing and 16 receiving.
That's a fairly even distribution of snaps between the two backs. What isn't there is any sort of overlap where the two were together, which is what was so ground-breaking about the opener.
Stefanski seemed to hint early in the week that was a game-specific wrinkle and not necessarily a standard feature to the offense this season.
“Carolina had faced a bunch of that personnel-type group previously," Stefanski said last Wednesday, "so we got a lot of tape of how we thought they may respond to that type of personnel grouping. It is really a game-by-game basis of what gives the defense problems.”
A lot of defensive ends working inside and outside
If you looked out at various points during Sunday's game, you may have seen the Browns showing a four-defensive end line at times. You may have seen Myles Garrett or, before leaving with an ankle injury in the third quarter, Jadeveon Clowney sliding inside.
What you certainly saw was a lot of different looks out of that group, admittedly in part due to Clowney's departure. The snap reflect that as well.
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Garrett played 57 snaps (81%), the most among the defensive line. Clowney played 34 (49%) before leaving, while rookie Alex Wright played 30 (43%).
Chase Winovich and Isaiah Thomas each had their debuts on defense. Winovich, who only played special teams in the opener, played 26 snaps (37%) Sunday, while the rookie Thomas was on the field for nine (13%).
The defensive tackles broke down this way: Taven Bryan 50 snaps (71%), Jordan Elliott 47 (67) and Tommy Togiai 25 (36%).
Tight ends and tackle eligibles a feature, not an accessory
The Browns got the tight ends, specifically David Njoku and Harrison Bryant, involved in the passing game early. They got both their two- and three-tight end sets involved early as well.
Njoku played 63 offensive snaps (94%), while Bryant − despite leaving for a time in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion − played 31 (46%). The former played a higher percentage than he did at Carolina, where he was in on 89% of the snaps.
Jesse James also played 13 snaps on offense. A handful of those came while Bryant was out, but there was multiple cases where the Browns came out in 13 personnel with James as the third.
Even when a third actual tight end wasn't on the field, there were still plenty of times where the Browns simply sent in an extra offensive lineman. Michael Dunn has been that person the first two games, and played 11 snaps on offense, which is actually the exact same number he had the previous week.
Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ