The Browns spent a lot of time evaluating Sam Darnold before settling on Baker Mayfield, and they plan to use that knowledge against the Jets.
Picking at the top of the 2018 NFL Draft meant a lot of work evaluating quarterbacks for the Cleveland Browns. Baker Mayfield wasn’t the only signal-caller they took a close look at. Sam Darnold got a lot of attention from the organization as well.
Now, the Browns want to prove all that time spent evaluating Darnold wasn’t wasted. Instead, they believe it gives them a unique edge in preparing to take on the rookie quarterback this weekend. Darnold has clearly made a lot of progress since April, but Hue Jackson and company insist they will use “every piece of information they can” to derail Darnold.
The idea that a franchise would leverage their draft knowledge in the regular season isn’t new. Quite a few NFL teams use this strategy on an annual basis. It’s still good news for Browns fans to know that their favorite team isn’t behind the curve. Cleveland hasn’t been known as a bastion of innovation under Jackson’s tenure.
The exercise is also most beneficial when it comes to quarterbacks. It’s the one position in the league where rookies come in with the ability to really change a team’s system. A talented linebacker is expected to fit what a team is already trying to do on defense. A potentially franchise altering quarterback like Darnold can change everything about a team’s offense.
That means what you see during the pre-draft process carries more weight for a player like Darnold. Quarterbacks who can make instant impacts likely haven’t changed their mechanics that much since April. More importantly, the Browns got a unique opportunity to learn how Darnold processes information when they were considering a significant investment in him as a player.
In theory, that means that Gregg Williams should have the ability to cook up some special defensive schemes to combat what Darnold likes to do. Given the defensive coordinator’s aggressive tendencies, that should lead to some exotic blitz packages on Thursday night. Williams should try to use the short week and Darnold’s inexperience against him in his third game as a professional.
The real question is whether or not the Browns’ defensive personnel can execute the schemes their coaching staff come up with. Early indications signal that answer may be yes. The young, high-end talent on Cleveland’s defense is progressing ahead of schedule. Guys like Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward will like their chances to disrupt Darnold and the Jets offense.
In the NFL, teams need to try to take advantage of every resource available to them. The Browns are doing just that by going back to their pre-draft scouting on Sam Darnold. They may find a nugget of information in that mountain of reports that can earn them a big win against the Jets.