Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns vs. Raiders – Week 6

The Cleveland Browns head to Oakland on Sunday for the first time in four years to take on the Raiders.

The Opposition

Oakland record: 3-2
Offensive rank: 9th overall/22nd passing/2nd rushing
Defensive rank: 31st overall/29th passing/22nd rushing
All-time record: Browns trail 8-12 (including playoffs), with a 6-7 mark away from home
Last meeting: Browns won 23-9 in 2009
The line: Browns (+5.5)

What to Watch For

With two weeks off since their last game, Browns coach Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron spent the bye week reviewing the first quarter of the season to find out what worked and what didn’t and claim to have adjusted the playbook and personnel accordingly.

With eight starters in their first or second year, and with a new offensive and defensive system being put into place, the Browns treated the first four games of the season as almost an extension of training camp, trying different personnel packages and plays to try and accelerate the learning process for not only the players but the coaches as well.

“We are still young together, but we know a lot more than we did when the preseason started about our guys,” Jauron said this week. “We’re still learning though week-to-week. We threw some stuff out that we didn’t care for and we didn’t add a whole lot. We really like the way our guys played, their enthusiasm and we felt the longer we can keep them together and do somewhat similar things, the better off we’ll be.”

This week on Sirius NFL Radio, the always excellent Pat Kirwin and Tim Ryan were talking about how teams missed about 1,000 snaps of practice this year because of the NFL lockout. There’s no question that the Browns could have used that practice time.

Now that they are through the initial part of the schedule it is time for this team to start showing what it is capable of. The Raiders present both an opportunity and a challenge.

Oakland is second in the league in rushing, led by Darren McFadden, the NFL’s top rusher wtih 519 yards and an average of 5.7 yards per rush. The Browns continue to struggle against the rush, ranking 25th, meaning the Browns should see a steady diet of McFadden left and McFadden right.

“I think the biggest thing we can do against him is set the edge and make him cut back and use the rest of our defense instead of putting (it all) on one guy,” linebacker Chris Gocong said in published reports. “But it’s a hard thing to do.”

If the defense can limit McFadden, however, the Browns could be in for a good day. The Raiders are a weak passing team (22nd) while the Browns have the fourth-best pass defense in the league. Stop McFadden on first and second down and the Browns could make it a long day for Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell.

On offense, this would be as good a time as any for the Browns to get the West Coast offense untracked as the Raiders are next-to-last in defense in the league.

Inserting Greg Little into the starting lineup at wide receiver over Brian Robiskie (three catches on the year) is a good start, as it puts another playmaker on the field against Oakland’s 29th-ranked pass defense. Also, if Tony Pashos can make it through the game without hurting himself, the Browns can give Evan Moore additional snaps as they don’t need Alex Smith to help with blocking on the right side.

The big worry on offense is Alex Mack. It sounds as if the Browns center will play after having his appendix removed, but if he has to come out the Browns are left with Steve Vallos at center, lining up next to rookie Jason Pinkston at left guard and second-year player Shawn Lauvao at right guard.

Not sure the thought of that will help quarterback Colt McCoy sleep any better tonight.

Oh, and it would be nice if the Browns could score some points in the first quarter for a change. This year they have been outscored 27-3 in the opening period.

“I’m very optimistic, the practices have been good, the guys have been focused, their energy level was good,” Shurmur said on Friday. “They practiced hard, I saw very few mistakes and again, as I tell them every week, good practices don’t guarantee good performances in the game. All it does is give you the best opportunity, but I feel very confident that we’ll go out and play well.”

The Most Painful Browns vs. Raiders game We’ve Ever Seen

If you don’t know by now, we don’t know what to tell you.

The Prediction

We expect the Browns to play a sharper game this week now that they have had two weeks of preparation.

But will that be enough against a Raider team that, while not great, is pretty good? And playing their first home game since owner Al Davis passed away?

Unfortunately, we don’t think so.

We’ll take the Raiders and the points.

Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 2-2-0.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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