BEREA, Ohio — Despite the Cleveland Browns’ 0-2 start, team captain D’Qwell Jackson is off to arguably the best start of his seven NFL seasons.
On Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson finished with a career-best three sacks, three quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss and an interception. In two games, Jackson has two interceptions — one returned for a touchdown in the opener — as well as a fumble recovery and eight tackles.
Jackson didn’t know if this was truly his best start, but he was quick to pass around the credit.
“It’s hard to say when you’re not winning,” he said. “I’m more comfortable the second time around (in the 4-3). A large part of my success thus far has been the D-line.”
Jackson said the Browns still have plenty of time to turn things around.
“It’s not over,” he said. “We have a lot of football to play.”
The Browns will host the Buffalo Bills at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Bills are coming to Cleveland after beating Kansas City 35-17 on Sunday.
“We’re back at home,” Jackson said. “Both of our games (have been) close. If we can get over that hump, we can string some wins together.”
Jackson said the defense has to play better, particularly on third down.
“As a defense, we have to do a better job of getting off the field,” he said. “We need to stay positive.
“We definitely had a lot of opportunities to get the ball back.”
Jackson said that the secondary missed Joe Haden, but he’s confident the young players will step it up.
“We have guys who can get it done,” Jackson said. “But (Joe’s) a great player and you do miss him.”
Must Win: Shurmur didn’t want to over emphasize this week’s game with the Bills, but he knows the importance of needing a win. Teams that start the season 0-3, historically, have little chance to make the playoffs.
“We need to do what we can to win this football game,” he said. “I have a big respect for Buffalo coming off a big victory. They’ve upgraded their roster a lot.”
Bad Call: Jackson said that the penalty he was called for grabbing TE Jermaine Gresham was within the rules and the way he’s played since he’s been in the NFL.
“I played the way I have for seven years within the rules,” Jackson said. “I took the tight end out of the equation. At the end of the game, we agreed to disagree (with the official).”
Pass Rush: One of the bright spots coming out of the first two games has been the pressure the defense has put on opposing quarterbacks. After two sacks against Michael Vick in the opener, the Browns sacked Andy Dalton six times.
“It starts with the talent of the guys doing the rushing,” Shurmur said. “At least in my time here, we’ve upgraded our talent at the position.
“We’ve had a good rotation and guys are fresh.”
Jackson said the guys up front have been key in the pressure.
“I have to give our D-line a lot of credit,” Jackson said. “They have given us a good push that has contributed to the sacks and turnovers.”
Jackson had three sacks against the Bengals and an interception. The other sacks were credited to defensive linemen John Hughes, Juqua Parker and Frostee Rucker.
Injury Update: There were no updates on players who left the Bengals game. Parker (ankle), DL Billy Winn (head) and TE Alex Smith (head) all left the game. They will be updated on Wednesday when the team injury report is submitted to the NFL.
Sheldon Brown played one play against the Bengals to keep his streak alive at 162 games, but was held out the rest of the game.
“He was limited throughout the week,” Shurmur said. “I’ve been with Sheldon for a long time and am a big Sheldon Brown fan and he was banged up throughout the week last week.”
Shurmur sounded optimistic that he would be able to resume his starting role this week.
“I think you’ll see him in there.”
Shurmur said he thinks Brown would rather get a win than to keep his streak alive.
“I think it’s important to him,” he said. “If you ask an unselfish guy like Sheldon, he’d give up a streak for a victory.”
Young Guns: With Haden and Brown out, defensive backs Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade were forced into much more action than usual. Both players struggled with big plays.
Shurmur was asked if any changes would be made at cornerback.
“We’re going to look at everything to make this team better,” Shurmur said.
Shurmur said that Skrine slipped on the turf on a couple of plays.
“When I watched the game, I fly through it pretty quick on the plane coming home,” he said. “I think there was some (slipping) going on.”
Shurmur said he thinks all of the cornerbacks on the roster can play the outside and some can play the slot.
“When you draft, you take corners who can play outside and then you work them from there,” he said. “With Joe out, we’ll look at all options.”