The path to victory for the Jets is pretty simple Sunday in Cleveland: Don’t let Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns’ two-headed running back monster, beat you.
If the Jets include Chubb and Hunt, they’ll fly home to New Jersey with a 1-1 record.
Allow these two backs to break free like they did last week, combining 187 rushing yards and a touchdown with 33 carries in a win over the Panthers, and the Jets will find themselves 2-0 down for the fifth time in six seasons with the Super Bowl Bengals runners-up next on the schedule.
“If we don’t stop the run, if we don’t play the run well, we’re going to have a tough day on Sunday,” Jets defense coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said Thursday. “[Chubb] is a guy who loves to wear people down. I read a statistic that accounted for the vast majority of his explosives [runs] came in the fourth quarter, which is obviously a by-product of some guy wearing you down.
“So we have to go the opposite way. It’s not about surviving this guy. It punishes this guy and in the fourth [quarter], it will be on our terms and then we’ll wear you down. We have to continue to develop this mentality in defence.”
The Jets’ defense got off to a good start in Week 1 against the Ravens, who, like the Browns, are a run-first team. The Jets held Baltimore to just 63 rushing yards.
While a little unrealistic, that would be a nice number to hold on to the Browns.
“Probably the most talented duo in the league,” Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said of Chubb and Hunt. “Nick alone would make that a top five [running back] place in the league. And then you add Kareem, who could start at any other team in the league and was great at Kansas City.”
Defensive lineman Carl Lawson has faced both defenders, saying, “It’s crazy when you have two top 10 defensemen in the league in the same backfield, in my opinion.”
Defensive Tackling John Franklin-Myers said this game is “falling on the defensive front” and we plan to be violent to set the boundaries and do whatever it takes to stop their run. It starts at the beginning.”
Franklin-Myers described Chubb, who hit Carolina defenses for 141 yards with 22 carries, as “a great runner with great balance and a great stiff arm. He is strong. You have to bring your feet and be prepared for that stiff arm because it’s coming.”
Franklin-Myers on Hunt, who had 46 rushing yards and a TD last week: “Hunt is different because he’s a little more unorthodox. He’s a bit wild and crazy. He runs super hard, but it’s different because he doesn’t have a signature move. He bounces off guys and keeps running and keeps his feet moving.”
Rankins described Chubb as “more of a real one-cut guy who puts his foot in the ground and runs with power.”
Rankins on Hunt: “Kareem has a little bit more of you-don’t-know-what-you-get. He’s got a little more make-you-miss than meets the eye. Has great balance, is great off backcourt. He can run any route from the backfield.”
Linebacker CJ Mosley called the duo “a very tough one-two punch.”
“If we don’t have the edges, it’s going to be a long day,” Mosley said.
“They both present different problems,” Rankins said. “Nick is in the top 5 in the league and Kareem is in the top 10 in this league. There’s nothing these guys can’t do. It will be up to us to narrow the lanes, get 11 guys on the ball and put up a great tackle. These guys do a great job breaking tackles. They run through arm tackles. Population to the ball is important because these guys are turning 5-yard runs into 11- and 12-yard runs.
“They are able to rely on their running game for everything and not have it [quarterback] Jacobi [Brissett] Having to throw 30 or 40 times per game. It’s about us, the guys up front. Let them earn it.”
If the Jets get Chubb and Hunt to earn their yards and bet it on Brissett to win the game, they will win the game.