The Oakland Raiders will arrive at First Energy Stadium this weekend with a 0 - 6 record and an offense that has scored more than 14 points only once this season. This will also be the second week in a row the Browns defense will face a rookie QB, albeit the best rookie QB of the bunch so far this year. Even with a defensive front that is dealing with injuries, the Browns should be able to contain the Raiders offense which ranks dead last in the NFL in points (92); yards per game (282.7); red zone drives (10); first downs (94); time of possession (25:01); and rushing yards per game (69.3).
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders defense is allowing 26.3 points per game (ranked 25th in the NFL) and their 3rd down defense is dead last in the NFL: 52.9%
The #Raiders 3rd down defense is dead last in the NFL: 52.9%, that would be the worst percentage in NFL history— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) October 20, 2014
It's important to make a distinction between the Browns from the first 5 weeks vs the Browns now. The excitement and 4th quarter drama from the beginning of the year has been put in check by season ending injuries to both Alex Mack and Armonty Bryant, as well as nagging injuries along the defensive front that have kept Rubin, Taylor, and Hughes out of games, and hindered Desmond Bryant and Barkevious Mingo all season.
Still, it's "next man up" in the NFL and the pressure is squarely on the Browns to beat the Raiders at home in a game that they should win. On paper this is a game that you want to feel good about. But keep in mind that the Jacksonville Jaguars offense which ranks 2nd worst in the NFL in both total offense per game (296 yards) and points per game (105), just managed to carve up the Browns defense for 24 points and 344 total yards (159 passing yards and 185 rushing yards).
Raiders Offensive Notes:
According to Pro Football Focus, the Raiders have the 9th worst overall offense in the NFL (-39.3); the 7th worst passing offense (-16.4); and the 7th worst rushing offense (-5.0).
Derek Carr - Carr has looked the part of an NFL QB more than any other rookie this season. He has shown calm and poise in the pocket: stepping up, keeping his focus up field and not allowing pressure to impact his eyes or his progressions. He has shown the same quick release and rocket arm that he had in college but has also shown improvement with his ball placement and challenging secondaries vertically. He has shown the ability to read a defense and make the proper throws based on what he’s being given. Like any rookie, he's still not a finished product but he looks very good so far this season. The Browns will need to find a way to pressure Carr to upset his rhythm and not allow him to set his feet. If coverage is solid but we can't pressure him he may be able to extend plays with his feet or elect to run. Sacking him hasn't been easy for opposing pass rushers. In fact his 4 sacks is the least among all NFL QB's, so putting pressure on him and getting him to the turf will force him to adjust to something he hasn't experienced often in his rookie season.
Guards: Gabe Jackson & Austin Howard - these two should provide some opportunities for even our maligned defensive line to make some plays. Both Jackson and Howard are grading out poorly overall per PFF, especially in the running game. However, after watching their game last week vs. the Cardinals it's apparent, at times, that they were able to give Carr a decent pocket to operate from. The Raiders do have a solid C in Stefen Wisniewski and solid Tackles in Donald Penn and Menelik Watson. Attacking Jackson and Howard will definitely exploit a weaknesses but we must maintain our edge responsibility and gap integrity.
Darren McFadden / Maurice Jones Drew - While he certainly hasn't lived up to his draft position, the Browns need shut down McFadden. The problem is that the Browns have struggled stopping the run and the screen pass all season. With injuries impacting our depth and cohesiveness along the defensive line, we really need to be focused on stopping the run and forcing the rookie QB into obvious passing situation where we can dial up pressure / coverages. If the Raiders have success running the ball with either McFadden or the aging MJD, then they could realistically rack up 14 points or more for only the 2nd time this season.
James Jones, Andre Holmes & Brice Butler - these three have been the most productive members of a receiver corps that lacks big play-makers. Jones is the most complete weapon but is far from a dominant force. He does have some play making ability because he can stretch a team vertically while also running crisp routes. I imagine Haden will be matched up with Jones most the day and must beware of double moves resulting in deep completions.
Holmes has height and has shown the ability to get open vertically this season and make plays. However, he also has some issues catching the ball consistently which has limited his ceiling as well as his offense's efficiency, still he can make plays for big yardage.
#Raiders WR Andre Holmes has played in 15 games with the team. Has 40 receptions, 700 yards (17.5 catch--14 plays of 20+ yards, 2 of 40+).— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) October 15, 2014
While Brice Butler doesn't have a ton of receptions or yards, Oakland's TE's have been abysmal this season, so Butler is a guy we'll want to watch during third down situations.
Raiders Defensive Notes:
According to Pro Football Focus, the Raiders have the 10th worst overall defense (-18.8); the 7th worst run defense (-16.6); the 17th best pass rush (+1.7); and the 15th best pass coverage (-5.8)
Khalil Mack - the rookie OLB has done nothing but impress. He has been making plays all over the field so far this season. He's stout vs. the run and although he is still seeking his first sack, Mack has been able to pressure the QB at least 16 times thus far in 6 games. PFF grades him as the best performing rookie so far this season (+16.6) which means the Browns offensive line are going to have a touch assignment containing Mack on Sunday. They constantly need to be aware of where he is regardless of run or pass situations. We may need to run away from him and try to roll protection his way on passing plays using motion. Successfully running the ball and then setting up play action could also help mitigate his disruptive ability as well, but he's going to make plays. It will be interesting to see how Shanahan attacks both him and the Raiders defense.
Sio Moore - the 2nd year LB is a fast, smooth explosive, downhill player who can get pressure on the QB and play behind the LOS. I believe he is becoming one of the best weakside linebackers in the NFL. Both he and Mack ran the same 40 @ 4.65 and both grade out very similarly in terms of their explosiveness. It will be interesting to see what the Raiders do with him because while he's fluid in coverage - and has been called upon to cover legit threats like Antonio Gates and done a decent job (3 reception; 27 yard; 1 TD) - he's allowing a passer rating of 130.0 when thrown at. I was a fan of Sio's coming out of Connecticut and have enjoyed watching his early success in the NFL. Don't be surprised if you hear his name called often on Sunday.
Charles Woodson - Brian Hoyer will need to be aware of the "ageless" Woodson who is still playing at a high level for the Raiders raking up 39 tackles and 2 INT so far this season.
Lamarr Woodley out, Benson Mayowa in - Outside from pass coverage, the free agent had been performing poorly this season as the Raiders LOLB. In light of Woodley's season ending injury last weekend, UDFA Benson Mayowa will have an opportunity to showcase his skills more extensively vs. the Browns. This could be an interesting matchup to explore for Shanahan, especially with mismatches like Hawkins and Cameron, as well as looking to run the ball outside in his direction.
#Raiders DE LaMarr Woodley suffered a torn bicep in the game Sunday, source says. His season is believed to be over.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 23, 2014
Krupka's Browns Keys To Victory:
It's really hard for me to say this is a must win game, but I can assure you that inside Berea there is an expectation that we do just that. The brass was not pleased with the results or the product on the field last weekend at Jacksonville. Nor should they have been. We were terrible. From the coaches, to the players, to the business executives, this organization expects to play well enough to win every week. And it starts with the game at hand.
Throughout the week there's been a ton of noise and distraction from the media surrounding Hoyer's week 6 performance. But Pettine has stressed that Hoyer is firmly the starter; it's only a distraction if they let it become one; that they are aware Brian's completion percentage can improve; that they aren't going to panic after one loss; and that he has been stressing to the team the value of compartmentalizing each game, and putting it on a shelf - not lingering too long regardless if it's good or bad.
- The Browns need to show that they've moved on and are ready to "Play Like a Brown" on Sunday. They need to show improvement along both lines and both units have to show that they've regrouped and those playing are prepared to step up. This includes the blocking efforts from the TE group.
- First and foremost on defense we need to stop the run. That's critical. We haven't been able to do this all season, but if we can hold them to their season average of 70 yards, then we should be able to get pressure on Carr during necessary passing situations and hopefully cause turnovers, or at the very least force them to punt.
- On offense, we need to be able to successfully and effectively run the ball and neutralize Mack and Moore. If we struggle doing that we're likely in for another long afternoon. But if we can generate running lanes for Tate and Crowell, the offense should start humming again.
- Finally, Brian Hoyer needs to be better than he did vs. Jacksonville. He needs to put the ball on target on intermediate and deep throws, and he needs to make plays when we need him most, on 3rd down. Most of all, he needs to lead this team to a win. If he does that, that's all we can ask for. A win changes everything.