"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's edition, I'll take a look at several things that could be different about today's game against the Oakland Raiders that could lead to a Browns victory.
What we need today is a healthy dose of running back Peyton Hillis. Even though I preferred what the Browns did with Hillis in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts more than any other game this season, I would say that the big back has not been used correctly in any game this season. By saying that Hillis will get a bulk of the carries this Sunday, Shurmur seems to be leaning more towards the approach that was taken against the Colts. But, he needs to fine-tune the gameplan from that week by inserting Montario Hardesty into the game when Hillis needs a rest. If Hillis does not need a rest, there is no advantage to putting Hardesty in (unless there is a dual backfield). No more fullback handoffs to Hillis either.
Defensively, I am assuming that Joe Haden will be out. I'd rather keep Dimitri Patterson as a nickelback because he has done so well there, but his experience as a starter in Philadelphia last year should help against a Raiders team that isn't exactly known as having a dominant group of receivers. The big change is that rookie Buster Skrine would be featured prominently as the third cornerback. Removing Haden from the lineup isn't what will spark the Browns, but when you put hungry players in a position to succeed, there is always a chance they can have a breakout game. Maybe Skrine gets burned, but maybe he jumps a few routes and ends up making a big play for the defense.
You are going to see me go bananas (in a good way) in the game thread if tight end Evan Moore is featured like he was in the preseason. One thing I am asking of the coaching staff? Put this guy in as a blocker sometimes too. Even if they feel he does not excel in that regard, you can't tell me that the guy can't deliver a chip on someone for a couple of plays. This is part of the Browns needing to become less predictable, similar to where if they are going to run a pitch out to Armond Smith, they need to show him doing other things for a couple of snaps first.
Wide receiver Greg Little being moved into the starting lineup poses a question of, "what happens to Brian Robiskie?" Does Robiskie see reps at the slot, or does the coaching staff pull off a surprise and list him as inactive for today's game? I do not question the guy's worth ethic or anything like that, but how much longer can we try to benefit from giving him reps when you have two guys on the bench with more unique skill sets? I'm referring to Jordan Norwood (who is our most shifty receiver) and Carlton Mitchell (who has the size and speed to create some mismatches). There has to be a reason that a team with no dominant receivers is keeping six receivers on the roster. Norwood looked so good with McCoy in the preseason, but I imagine we won't see him play much against Oakland.
The other two changes defensively will involve the probable debuts of two new players: defensive end Auston English and linebacker Titus Brown. The Raiders have a good kick return team, and Brown is known for making some good sticks on special teams tackles. It isn't the worst idea to give D'Qwell Jackson a breather every so often either so he doesn't get worn down, especially against a tough running team. Our defensive ends have been overworked through four games, and even though Marcus Benard saw little playing time during that span, I think we'll see if the coaching staff just didn't like him as a defensive end if English sees a lot of action against Oakland.