Greetings, Raider fans! This is the Great Raiderdamus, the artist formerly known as RDreamer. Since I’m a big shot around here, the Grand Poobahs of SBNation Upper Management have asked me to go by my real name. My ability to tell the future and be witty, naturally, remain unchanged.
Throughout the month of July, your friendly neighborhood S&BP Staff are breaking down each one of the Raiders’ opponents. Today we focus on the Raiders’ Week 4 opponent, the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns were an unmitigated disaster last year, losing every game for the second 0-16 campaign in league history. This gave them the first overall pick in the draft, which they used on mercurial Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, who is essentially Jim McMahon with a worse drinking problem.
But the Browns also had a TON of cap room, and by God they used it. Cleveland went on a spending spree, signing player after player. They no longer even remotely resemble the 2017 Browns. But will that be enough to give Hue Jackson his second ever win as a head coach (the first was over the Chargers, in case anyone forgot)?
Key Additions: QB Tyrod Taylor, WR Josh Gordon (off suspension), WR Jarvis Landry, QB Baker Mayfield, RB Carlos Hyde, RB Nick Chubb, CB TJ Carrie, CB Denzel Ward, CB EJ Gaines, CB Terrence Mitchell, DB Demarious Randall, TE Darren Fells, OL Donald Stephenson, WR Jeff Janis, OL Greg Robinson and a partridge in a pear tree.
Key Departures: QB Deshone Kizer, QB Cody Kessler, CB Devin McCourty, OL Zach Banner, DT Danny Shelton, OT Joe Thomas, WR Sammie Coates.
2018 NFL.com Power Poll: #31
2017 Total offense: 24th at 308.9 yards per game, scoring offense 32nd at 14.6 PPG
2017 Total defense: 14th at 328.1 yards per game allowed, scoring defense 31st at 25.6 PPG allowed
Raiders front seven vs. Tyrod Taylor
The Raiders, particularly Khalil Mack, abused Taylor in 2016 when he played for the Bills. He was sacked four times and threw a pick in a 38-24 loss. It’s possible that Taylor has more talent around him in Cleveland than that Buffalo team had, but Taylor’s development has been stagnant for the last few seasons and he will have to have a big performance if the Browns look to win in Oakland.
It will be important for the Raiders’ pass rushers to get in Taylor’s face early and often. He will have a variety of weapons at his disposal, but Taylor’s best weapon is his ability to run. The Raiders have to keep contain and either sack Taylor outright or funnel him toward the middle where new linebacker additions Derrick Johnson and Tahir Whitehead will be waiting.
Raiders secondary vs. Browns receivers
Josh Gordon is an absolute freak of nature and Jarvis Landry is criminally underrated, being bogged down in Miami’s pathetic offense for the last few years. Either one would be a tall order for a secondary, but both of them on the same team is murderous. Gareon Conley is big and fast enough to hang with Gordon and Rashaan Melvin can guard Landry, but Paul Guenther will have to cook up some special schemes to do all that and defend WR Corey Coleman, TE David Njoku and the Browns’ three-headed rushing attack of Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson out of the backfield. A healthy Obi Melifonwu would do wonders in this game.
Donald Penn vs. Myles Garrett
Despite missing a huge chunk of the season with an ankle injury and then a concussion, Garrett showed why he was worthy of the #1 overall pick last year. He had seven sacks in ten games, including four in his first three games played. He is, in my view, the best defensive end prospect since Jevon Kearse.
He will be a tall order for Raiders LT Donald Penn, who is on the downside of his career and coming off an injury. Penn has shut down plenty of quality pass rushers in his time, but he can have trouble with the kind of explosive speed and power possessed by Garrett. Interestingly, Raiders rookie tackle Kolton Miller played against Garrett two years ago at UCLA against Garrett’s Texas A&M team and did a fine job keeping Garrett out of Josh Rosen’s face. Surely he will have some pointers concerning how best to ‘tackle’ Garrett.
These Browns are a real mystery. No team did more to improve their roster than the Browns except perhaps the Rams, but the Rams have Sean McVay at head coach and the Browns still inexplicably have Hue Jackson. Playing the Browns in Week 4 would seem to be the perfect time to play them. The Raiders will have three weeks worth of game film on Cleveland, but the Browns might not have totally gelled as a unit only a month into the season.
These Browns are going to be a solid squad at some point in the year. Baker Mayfield isn’t going to settle for being a backup, and Denzel Ward has already solidified a starting corner spot with an excellent OTA performance. The Raiders should be able to take them out based on coaching and experience together, but let’s hope the Browns are good enough later in the year to do some damage to the Steelers and Ravens.