This Oakland Raiders offense offers quarterback Derek Carr some solid weapons to target in the passing game. Between receivers Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Martavis Bryant, and tight end Jared Cook, Carr are sure to find one.
Once Jon Gruden finds the week’s go-to match-up, he will relentlessly pick on it. In Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, Cook had the big match-up advantage, so Carr went to him 12 times for nine catches for 180 yards. Cook got big chunks of those yards on receptions of 45, 32, and 28 yards.
With Cooper catching just one pass for 9 yards in the opener, in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos, it was his turn to be the focus. Carr got the ball to him on all 10 attempts to him for 116 yards with a long of 30 yards on the day. Carr mainly threw quick passes that day and Cooper was able to make himself available to him a lot.
Then last week against the Dolphins, Jordy Nelson was up. He had been forgotten to that point and suddenly he went off. The Raiders exploited his match-up to get six catches on eight attempts for 173 yards and a touchdown. Much of his yards came on the first two drives with catches of 61 and 66 yards.
The logical question is who will be the guy this week?
How about Martavis Bryant?
The super talented but embattled WR was among the roster cuts and was brought back after week one. In his two games back, Bryant has just six catches on nine attempts for 60 yards. But Cooper and Nelson were also non-factors in their other two games, so recent history would suggest Bryant is due for his big game against the Cleveland Browns.
Match-up wise, Denzel Ward is the only Browns cornerback that has the speed and athleticism to stay with Bryant. The 5’11” Ward runs a 4.3 40 and has a 39-inch vertical leap. Bryant also has a 39-inch vertical leap but he’s 6’4”. Ward will likely be on Cooper most of the time anyway as he is the Raiders WR1.
Browns CB2 Terrance Mitchell is also 5’11” and runs a 4.6 40. We already know CB3 TJ Carrie doesn’t do well against speed from his time with the Raiders.
Thus far Martavis has been mostly an athletic decoy and weapon on gimmick plays.
“He’s demanded coverage,” Gruden said of Bryant Wednesday. “I think he helps Amari have big days. I think he helps Jordy have big days and I think he made some big plays. Third down receptions the other day. We tried to get him the ball on a double reverse, or a gimmick play, we didn’t it execute it very well but his presence out there is a difference. Everybody knows who is and what he is capable of doing.”
The Browns know the Raiders are trying to establish Cooper as the focal point of their passing game. So they’ll likely put Ward on him and see what he can do to slow him down. Then there’s Nelson and Cook, who have already shown what they can do in the Raiders’ offense. So Bryant may have the match-up Gruden can relentlessly pick on.