On Sunday the Raiders will host the Cleveland Browns, and for the last few years that’s pretty much meant an automatic win. The Browns had, until last week, won only one game in the last two years. But these are not your older brother’s Browns, this is an entirely different animal, and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is well aware of the challenge these Browns will pose.
“Cleveland is a much-improved team. Very easily could be 3-0. Playing inspired football. Got a lot of young, emerging players,” said Gruden. “They’ve drafted good players at the top of the rounds and developed them. Really impressed with [Baker] Mayfield in the preseason. Impressed with Mayfield coming off the bench. They’ve added some veteran players, like Jarvis Landry. They have a very good, attacking style of defense under Gregg Williams. Second year in that system, so the men know what to do. Have a great, young corner from Ohio State. It’ll be a challenge. They’ve been patient. I think they’ve drafted well, developed players and added some really good free agents.”
The Browns had far and away the most money to spend in free agency this offseason, and they went on a trading and spending spree under new GM Jon Dorsey. They acquired QB Tyrod Taylor, WR Jarvis Landry, FS Demarious Randall and many others. Over the last four years they’ve hit on many players in the draft including DE Myles Garrett, SS Jabrill Peppers, TE David Njoku, QB Baker Mayfield and CB Denzel Ward. Suddenly what was a laughingstock looks like an AFC playoff contender.
But the Browns aren’t 3-0, they are 1-1-1. Kicking woes cost them the first two games, as did the fact that the Browns couldn’t capitalize on six Pittsburgh turnovers in Week 1. The Jets game looked like it might be a disappointment, but Baker Mayfield came in to save the day. It’s not a stretch to imagine that the team Oakland will be facing on Sunday, with Mayfield under center and kicker Greg Joseph on the squad, would have defeated both Pittsburgh and New Orleans, and Cleveland would be coming into this game unbeaten.
The Browns are one of the hottest commodities in football right now. Their Thursday night game against the Jets was the highest rated Thursday NFL game since 2015. They are for real, and nobody is overlooking them now. Least of all Jon Gruden.