Sunday, the Browns travel to Oakland to face the Raiders. Despite both teams
having an identical record of just 4 wins and 9 loses, these two historic
franchises are headed in opposite directions. The Browns have seemingly found
their coach and leader in Romeo Crennel. Despite a lack of talent and a losing
record, this team shows up every week, giving it everything they have. The
Raiders are a very talented team that is tearing apart from within. Both fans
and players are ready to embrace change and the Browns will do their best to
aide them in their request for that change.
Coming into this season, the Raiders offense was not only expected to dominate, but also carry this team deep into the playoffs. This has not been the case as injuries and inconsistencies have plagued the Raiders all season long. Things have become so bad for the potentially high-powered offense that players are beginning to question and the rift between player and coach is growing with each loss.
The Raiders offensive line has not developed that continuity, especially within the interior of this line. With center Jake Grove expected to miss this week's game, it is not likely to improve anytime soon. The interior often seems thoroughly confused on exactly what the blocking scheme is. One guard will be zone blocking while another will man up resulting in opposing defensive tackles coming free entirely unblocked. They have not provided the push that was expected in the running game nor have they provided adequate pass protection.
Barry Sims is one of the best LT's in the league. He is not going to wow anyone but he will always bring his A game and fight for every inch gained. On the opposite side, Robert Gallery has struggled making the transition to right tackle. His run blocking and pass protection simply has not been what you would expect from the second overall pick in the first round.
A key match up here will be Orpheus Roye going against G Ron Stone and T Robert Gallery. Neither of these two can stop Roye individually and I dont know if combined they can hold him in check. This will allow a blitzer to come relatively free from the right side.
Lamont Jordan is a complete threat at running back with a nice size and speed combination. He is solid at picking up the blitz. He has the size to pound it inside between the tackles. He has the speed to get outside the tackles and stretch the defense. He possesses a soft set of hands and has become the safety valve for quarterback Kerry Collins. Lamont also leads this team in receptions. With all of that said, he is also frustrated and extremely vocal about his role within this offense. The key to Jordan is getting to him early and stopping him for a loss. If one defender can gain penetration, Jordan has a tendency to stop his momentum and begin to backpedal. This is why his average is only at 3.6 despite his wealth of talent.
Kerry Collins makes his return this week after being benched in an attempt by Coach Turner to spark this offense but after losing to the Jets the only thing that was sparked was the ire of fans and players. Kerry possesses the big arm that can stretch the field and put six on the board at any given time. He is also your basic pocket passer that does not enjoy moving but can move adequately within the pocket. Force him out and usually bad things happen for the offense.
Kerry is struggling with accuracy and one of the lowest completion percentages in the league. He has taken many shots this year and some is due to the offensive line but mostly it has been slow recognition and holding the ball to long. His biggest issue is failing to find the open receiver. There is simply no excuse for missing Randy Moss repeatedly when he is getting open down field. This is your primary weapon and it often appears as if Moss is the fourth option within the offense.
Jerry Porter is one of those talented receivers that shred zone defenses with intelligence. He understands how to find the soft part of zone defenses and position his body sideline to sideline giving the quarterback a huge target while screening off the defensive backs.
Randy Moss is arguably, one of the greatest receivers to have ever played the game. He has struggled through a rash of injuries this year but despite those injuries, he still has that size and speed to go get the ball no matter where the quarterback places it. He is a nightmare for any defensive back to cover especially when inside the red zone. One defensive back simply cannot contain Moss by himself but with the Browns horrible run defense, Leigh Bodden may find himself on an island to himself with Randy Moss.
When you field a defensive unit with the likes of Ted Washington, Warren Sapp, Charles Woodson and Derrick Burgess, you expect a throw back Raiders defense that is intimidating and simply instilling their will on opposing offenses. What the Raiders have for this expensive defense is disappointment. Warren Sapp and Charles Woodson are both on injured reserves. Ted Washington is playing through injuries. The one bright spot is Derrick Burgess and his 13-sack season.
This is where Sunday's game will likely be decided. Derrick Burgess is leading the NFL in sacks and he is simply playing at that elite level. He is not very imposing physically at only 260lbs. but he is coming off the snap quicker than anyone in football. He has a knack for timing his jump and combined with an excellent swim move and balance, he is beating tackles to the inside with ease. This will be a huge test for LJ Shelton. Shelton must use his physical dominance to wear down Burgess and control him early with that quick shot to take the defender out of the play. Burgess will likely shift to the opposite side and test Ryan Tucker as well.
Defensive tackle Ted Washington is playing through a leg injury but he is the type of tackle that has been a nightmare for center Jeff Faine. Washington is big and powerful with a thick chest that understands how to use his massive girth to control the line of scrimmage. If the Browns wish to have any type of running game, they must keep Washington in check and that will likely mean having both Jeff Faine and Cosey Coleman doubling up on Washington.
The Raiders have two blue-collar linebackers with Danny Clark and Kirk Morrison. Kirk Morrison is only a rookie but he is rapidly becoming one of this teams best defenders. He has excellent size combined with sideline-to-sideline speed. He is a bit vulnerable with the play action fakes but he is showing the speed to recover from those rookie mistakes. Danny Clark led the Raiders in tackles a year ago but he has been nursing a shoulder injury that has slowed down some of his big hits this year. It will be interesting to see how that shoulder holds up when taking on Reuben Droughns.
Stuart Schweigert is only in his second year but he is emerging as that intimidator over the middle at free safety. He has a nice size and speed combination but his hard-hitting approach is making receivers weary of going over the middle. At strong safety is Jarrod Cooper. Jarrod brings experience to the position and he is a good defender against the run but he can be beaten with the quicker slot receivers.
Nnamdi Asomugha is a physical corner that likes to bump and bang throughout the route. At the other corner position, the rookie Fabian Washington is starting. Many will remember Fabian for his freakish 40 time at last years combine when he ran a 4.29. Fabian could find himself defending Antonio Bryant this week and that is a match up the Browns will look to exploit as Bryant does better against the speedy corners than against the more physical types.
The Raiders have the best punter in all of football in Shane Lechler and
legendary place kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Janikowski has struggled a bit this
year but he still posses a very strong leg and is clutch in tight games.
Browns Battle Plan
The Browns will likely come out throwing this week, as he Raiders will use the philosophy of run blitz towards the quarterback. This is what the Jaguars and Bengals did during the second half of games, which led to the Browns defeat.
Charlie Frye will look for tight end Steve Heiden when that blitz comes and force the safeties to come up and make the play. Charlie will also try to find Antonio Bryant who physically matches up very well against this secondary by using the play action fake and then rolling out to give the receivers time to get up field. The Raiders have given up countless yards this year when they have faced a mobile quarterback that can roll to the right and if the secondary hangs with the receivers, look for Charlie to have a very productive day on the ground.
The Browns will also look to run behind LJ Shelton this week in an attempt to not only slow down Burgess in his pass rush but also wear him down with the mammoth size of Shelton. The key here will be the fullbacks taking Danny Clark out of the play. If Terrell Smith and Corey McIntyre come free on the middle linebacker, Ruben could find himself having a very productive day.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns have to stop the run, especially the cut back run that has plagued this team all year. The Browns cannot afford to commit the secondary to the running game this week with Moss and Porter. Look for Nick Eason to get many reps at nose tackle this week, where he can use his quickness to gain penetration. This is not what you want from your nose tackle but Ethan Kelly out, the Browns simply do not have the big physical body to control the line and now must rely on quick penetration to disrupt.
Containing Randy Moss will likely fall upon the shoulders of Leigh Bodden, who despite questionable calls at the end of last weeks game, truly shut down Chad Johnson. This week however he will face a different breed of receiver one that is bigger, faster and has better hands than anyone Leigh has faced. Look for Bodden to become very physical with Moss forcing him to fight through the pain of injuries early in routes, to disrupt the timing and wear him down over the course of the game.
This Raiders team is frustrated and after losing to the Jets, they are begging for someone to put them out of their misery. The Browns will need to get the early lead and allow that frustration to boil over. This is a very winnable game in a hostile environment.