Previewing Game #7 – Raiders @ Browns
What better way for the Browns to get over last week’s dismal performance? The answer is to go out there and play exceptionally against the Oakland Raiders. They have their only late afternoon
contest of the season, so hopefully the team’s body clocks are not out of synch. Win or lose, however, that will not be an acceptable excuse for the fan base. They expect the Browns to get back on track and dominate the rookie-led franchise with an interim coach. Let’s look deeper into this matchup.
Offense: It was one of those days last week in Jacksonville. Nothing went right for the Cleveland offense and most of the issues were due to the ineptitude of Brian Hoyer. Will this type of output continue the rest of the 2014 campaign? That is unlikely, and he should be completing the same types of throws he was just two weeks earlier against the Steelers. A fumble and an interception were definitely out of character, but Hoyer will succeed in protecting the ball in this contest. I also expect to see him to complete two touchdown passes, which isn’t much, but it positive momentum for the veteran.
Where does the running game go from here? Will they continue go with three runners, the way they did last week (which was unsuccessful)? I foresee a steady dose of Ben Tate primarily between the tackles, and several outside runs for Isaiah Crowell. That has been the formula for proven efficiency and yardage for this offense. Even if they have issues running early, I want to see them sticking to the run. The only way play action passing can work is with the threat of a run; that was non-existent last week and thus they had troubles passing as well.
Andrew Hawkins came back with a fury of a game last week, but it was all for naught. I loved seeing him record over 100 yards receiving, including a haul of sixty-five yards. Hopefully he does it again as a part of a victory – he continues to show he can make all sorts of different plays. Is Jordan Cameron’s injured shoulder still lingering? Were the Jaguars scheming to take him out of the Browns’ game plan? Whatever the reason, the tight end is not getting involved in contests. Like Hawkins’ last outing, I would enjoy seeing an outburst of yards and scores by the free agent to-be this offseason.
Alex Mack is not walking through that door folks (at least as a healthy player). The offensive line was horrendous last matchup, and Paul McQuistan and John Greco underwhelmed in their first full game starting in new positions. It might be time to see whether Nick McDonald is ready to play center and slide Greco back to guard; the unit cannot keep getting stuffed up the middle. My eyes will be focused on this group during the first offensive drive – it may be telling to see whether they can fuel a solid win or if it’s going to be another long day.
Defense: Despite all the injuries, there is zero excuse (that is reasonable) to explain the Browns’ run defense. They are still very porous and are letting opponents (both larger and smaller backs)
breeze through open holes. Will Ahtyba Rubin and/or Billy Winn finally get back on the field this week? I desperately hope so, as those veterans might be the difference between respectable and despicable. Garnering an early lead will limit opposing running attempts as well, as Tony Sparano would be forced to utilize the pass to try to catch up.
The three outside linebackers were nowhere to be found – Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, and Jabaal Sheard had a combined six stops and zero impactful plays. The defense can get by if other athletes step up in their absence, but having little to no outside pressure has been
killing the Browns. On the flip side, Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby tallied fifteen tackles, two sacks, and a pair of hits on Blake Bortles. This week, the coaching staff must figure out a way to have the outside linebackers play more like the guys on the inside. The linebackers have the potential to become a dominant unit, but it all has to come together (which is very easy to be said).
Right place, right time continues to be the motto for Tashaun Gipson. I would not be surprised to see him collect another interception this contest. Buster Skrine has been inconsistent most of this year but I have confidence he can be solid against a James Jones or Denarius Moore. Will Joe Haden be invisible once again? Teams might think twice to pick on him, as the veteran is recovering well from his hip injury. I hope K’Waun Williams returns this week as his play had added another dimension to this secondary. The bottom line is, they must force rookie Derek Carr into mistakes – and more importantly capitalize on those with touchdowns.
Special Teams: That’s now two returners who have mishandled punts for the Browns. Will they use Jim Leonhard more in this role? Should they go back to Travis Benjamin? Chris Tabor’s only huge issue is this part of the game, but it is glaring. The team is not good enough to overcome large mistakes like the one that occurred last week.
Coaching: It seems like Mike Pettine has a very aggressive coaching style, some times to his detriment. I’m always for attempting touchdowns over field goals but sometimes he has to read the situation better. He’s got to get some of these tough decisions right – I know he has all the confidence in the world in this offense, but if they don’t execute it comes back to Pettine.
Prediction (My Record: 4-2): Last week’s game was garbage, so let’s toss it out and forget about it. I think the Browns play the way they should have in Jacksonville and win a game by a decent margin at home. They finish out ahead of the visitors by the score of 24 – 16.