After each game, we've been highlighting three defensive and three offensive players and looking in detail at their performance. We'll wrap up today with the defense:
Cash of Champions
One of the biggest bright spots of the offseason so far has been the fact that fifth round rookie linebacker Blake Cashman already looks like a serviceable defensive contributor. Of course, he might not even be getting reps if not for CJ Mosley's injury, but he seems to have acquitted himself to be a candidate for more playing time once Mosley is back.
Cashman had six tackles on Monday night, including three run stuffs, one of which went for a loss. He didn't give anything up in coverage and also made a few contributions as a pass rusher as he shared a sack cleaning up and also batted this pass on a pressure up the middle:
Cashman almost batted down a second pass, but Neville Hewitt jumped in front of him to get the initial touch. Something notable on each of those plays was that Leonard Williams took out a double-team so that someone else could generate pressure - just in case you thought the concept of Williams doing that was a myth created by those who would defend his lack of statistical production.
Back to Cashman though. There were a few negatives, including on Nick Chubb's touchdown run where he was collected at the second level by a blocker and couldn't get off it. He was blocked out of one other play at the second level too. Also, in coverage, he left a back open in the flat, although the Browns failed to punish that.
One minor issue is that with Cashman starting, he was used a lot less on special teams, which might have factored into them not being very good. Presumably he'll return to being a core special teamer once Mosley is back and he moves back into a situational role of some kind.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
Nate Hairston didn't even see a defensive snap in game one, so it was surprising to see him in the starting lineup on Monday night. Given what was expected of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry prior to the game, the outside cornerbacks held up better than anticipated, especially when you consider that the bulk of Beckham's production came on a blown coverage by a linebacker (Hewitt).
Other than the touchdown, Beckham's biggest play was a spectacular one-handed catch over Hairston but it's difficult to fault the newcomer on that one because he was all over him in blanket coverage. However, he also gave up 29 and 21 yards passes to reserve Damion Ratley.
The 29-yarder came on a pass where Hairston badly missed a tackle at the marker to let him gain some extra yardage. He also showed some shaky technique on the 21-yarder which came on a 3rd-and-12:
If Trumaine Johnson had a game where he gave up 33, 29 and 21 yard catches, we'd never hear the end of it. As it was, Johnson only gave up two plays of 29 yards or longer all last year and the 27.7 yards per catch surrendered was also higher than anything Johnson has had as a Jet.
Then again, you can't really judge Johnson on the same criteria as Hairston who is earning a fraction of the salary Johnson is. We should, however, avoid going overboard about how good Hairston looked at this stage. Now that New England and the other upcoming opponents have been clued into the fact he will probably play, they can go after some of his weaknesses, which the Browns wouldn't have been primed to do.
Aside from his three first downs surrendered, Hairston disrupted the pass on the two other times he was targeted, although one of these saw him called for a costly defensive hold at the top of the route on fourth down. The other saw him upend the leaping David Njoku, who broke his wrist on the play.
Hairston also made a good play against the run, knifing into the backfield on a run blitz and avoiding a blocker to blow up a run for a loss.
With Nathan Shepherd suspended, Folorunso Fatukasi made the most of Quinnen Williams' absence to get some quality reps. He was in on three stops - one as the runner dragged him for a five yard gain, one for a loss and one for a short gain that was negated by a penalty.
Here was the tackle for loss. Fatukasi basically blows the play up with initial penetration to force the runner wide and then keeps coming downhill to finish it off as the runner tries to cut back:
Fatukasi did get driven off the line once and wasn't credited with any pressures on his 11 pass rush attempts, although he did penetrate the pocket one time as Baker Mayfield was forced to vacate.
Last year, in very limited action, Fatukasi looked out of his depth, but this was an encouraging display that showed he looks more like he belongs now. Going forward, he could be a useful piece to replace Steve McLendon next year if he keeps improving, with Quinnen Williams expected to lead the line and Leonard Williams' future up in the air.
Shepherd is scheduled to still be under contract for two more seasons after this one, but you have to wonder if he'll even make it to November.
Previously: Three on O: Beachum, Falk, Shell