FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Tyrod Taylor is never mentioned among the elite quarterbacks in the league, but the Jets believe he’s one of the toughest to contain.
Taylor enjoyed success against the Jets when he was with the Bills. Now he’s leading a Browns offense that has many weapons and a running game that will have the Jets’ full attention Thursday night, especially since Taylor is capable of taking off at any time.
“Tyrod being a dual-threat quarterback, their run is going to be something we have to stop early on so their play-actions aren’t in play,” end Leonard Williams said after practice Tuesday. “The sooner we can stop the run, the sooner we can play those type of plays that they have. That’s what makes them really good sometimes. If they can get a few good running plays in and jog down the field on runs, then the play-action really works because people are biting down on the run game and it leaves the backfield guys behind.
“Guys up front, we’re going to put it on our back to try to stop the run as soon as possible.”
The Browns (0-1-1) are a hungry team, looking to end a 19-game winless streak when the Jets visit. Cleveland is getting closer after some offseason moves, including the acquisition of two players the Jets know all too well. Taylor and Jarvis Landry were traded out of the AFC East, but the Jets can’t get rid of them. They’re also scheduled to play the Browns next season.
But they’re better on both sides of the ball, as they showed in their first two games, tying the Steelers and losing by three to the Saints. Zane Gonzalez, whom the Browns cut Monday, missed three field goals and two extra points in those games.
The Jets (1-1) think the Browns are dangerous, and they’re putting an emphasis on stopping their running game. The Browns are fifth in the NFL, averaging 135 rushing yards. Their main ball carrier is Carlos Hyde, who left San Francisco to sign with the Browns. They also have Duke Johnson, a good pass catcher, and rookie Nick Chubb.
But Taylor is the wild card because of his ability to use his legs to get downfield. He has two fewer rushing yards than Hyde (105) on 26 fewer carries. The Jets are allowing 87 yards on the ground per game, but this is the best running attack they have faced.
“They have three great running backs and then the quarterback can run as well, so that’s extra yardage you don’t account for that’s hidden,” Todd Bowles said.
“It’s hard to prepare against a dual-threat quarterback,” Williams said. “You have to really collapse the pocket and try hard to make him one-dimensional, just a passing quarterback, instead of letting him try and beat you with both.”
The Jets have seen this before. Taylor quarterbacked the Bills and had LeSean McCoy to give the ball to if he didn’t run with it himself. In five starts against the Jets, Taylor is 3-2, has thrown for eight touchdowns and rushed for two.
If the Jets can make Taylor one-dimensional, he has one of the best receivers in the league in Landry, the former Dolphin. Taylor has an accurate arm and doesn’t make many mistakes. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2015, he has thrown only 18 interceptions in 1,306 attempts.
“That’s a big challenge because he runs faster than most of the quarterbacks we face,” Bowles said. “All of them can scramble, but he’s an elite runner and he’s very accurate on the deep ball. He’s one of the best dual threats in the league.
“Some of them can throw. Some of them can run and throw on the run. He can hurt you with his legs and he can hurt with his deep balls. And because of his intelligence he doesn’t turn the ball over, so it’s going to be tough.”