CLEVELAND — Following the Cleveland Browns’ 24-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars (who were 0-6 prior to their week seven meeting), two things became rather apparent. The loss of Alex Mack severely compromised the Browns’ rushing attack. As a result, play action wasn’t nearly as effective against the Jaguars compared to their outing against the Steelers.
With Alex Mack in the lineup, the Steelers routinely committed seven or more defenders to stop the run, which opened up the passing game. With the injury to Mack, the Browns were unable to generate a surge up front against the Jaguars.
With John Greco sliding over to center, and Paul McQuistan taking over for Greco at right guard last week, there was simply too much leakage along the offensive line to sustain drives. The Browns converted just 4 of 17 third downs against the Jaguars. The Browns’ suboptimal performance on third down was a direct result of their inability to move the football on the ground. Fortunately for the Browns, the Raiders have the worst third down defense in the NFL.
With a new addition at center, and Greco returning to his right guard spot, the Browns will look to improve upon their season-low 69 yards rushing they achieved a week ago. The Browns currently have the No.6 rated rushing attack in the league with 133.5 yards per game. The Raiders are currently giving up 145.3 rushing yards per game, which certainly bodes well for the Browns’ offense.
Will the Browns give another 0-6 team their first win of the season? Below is a list of keys for the Browns to emerge from this week’s game victorious:
- The Browns have activated center Nick McDonald who has been recovering from a wrist injury. It is possible he will get the nod as the starter against the Raiders, which will enable Greco to return his native position. Making just one change along the offensive line as opposed to two in an effort to replace one player should certainly help the Browns achieve greater continuity on offense.
- If the Browns are to sustain drives against the Raiders, it is imperative that they not only run the football, but run it effectively. The Browns’ entire offensive attack is predicated on the run. If the running game is successful, the play-action pass naturally opens up as opposing defenses commit extra defenders to stop the run. The passing game is not nearly as effective if the run game is not flourishing, and this was never more evident than Brian Hoyer’s 215-yard performance last week when he completed just 39 percent of his passes.
- With a bevy of injuries in the secondary, the Browns would be well served attacking the likes of Chimdi Chekwa who struggles finding the football in flight, and DJ Hayden who will likely be returning from injury this week. Continuing to move Jordan Cameron across the formation will also reap dividends, as the Raiders are not particularly athletic at the linebacker position outside of rookie linebacker Khalil Mack. Additionally, the available raider defensive backs will have a hard time competing with Cameron in jump-ball situations.
- The Browns should make certain to get a lot of pressure on Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr as he has had a difficult time locating his receivers under duress. One way to get pressure on Carr would be to utilize a defensive end and Barkevious Mingo on a stunt to free up the athletic outside linebacker.
- While the Browns have the worst run defense in the NFL, the Raiders also have the league’s worst rushing attack. With Ahtyba Rubin probable to return from his ankle injury, he will provide another big body to protect the linebackers, and enable them to flow freely to the football and make plays. This would be a great week for the Browns to finally play up to their potential and improve upon their run fits.
- The Browns defensive backs would be well served getting their hands on the Raiders’ wide receivers early and often in an effort to throw off timing. Brice Butler and Denarius Moore have proven to be capable of providing explosive plays, but as long as Joe Haden, Justin Gilbert and K’waun Williams are physical with the Raider receivers, Carr will likely have a difficult time connecting with them.
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