Jon Gruden, Baker Mayfield, Gregg Williams, Todd Haley, Marshawn Lynch, Chad Thomas, etc. this week’s game feels like it belongs in Hollywood with all of the different personalities involved in this week’s matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders.
The Browns are 1-1-1 and are off to their best start since the 2011 season. The following year back in 2012, was the last time the Browns played in the legendary Oakland Coliseum. The Orange and Brown won that ball game by a final score of 20-17. The last time these two teams met back in 2015, the Raiders escaped FirstEnergy Stadium with a 27-20 win.
The Raiders and Browns have played in the regular season a total of 22 times, with the Raiders having a 10-12 advantage in the series. The Browns have actually fared better on the road against Oakland, posting an even 7-7 record. Do not forget, this week’s game is at 4:05 p.m. on FOX.
- It’s time to shine, rookie
Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and the 30th quarterback to start for the Cleveland Browns since 1999. The first overall pick does not care that he is the 30th passer to start since 1999. “It is 2018. Don’t really care,” said Mayfield on Monday morning when speaking with reporters. Mayfield is going to the black hole for his first career start in the NFL, it may be a challenging one. The Browns rookie quarterback believes the talent around him will help the team win against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. “They can game plan for me, but we have other skill guys. We have guys that are doing their job very well right now. Like I said, my job is to get the ball in their hands. I am not going to be the one to run around and create all of the plays. I am just going to do my job, and let them do the work.”
2. Welcome back fellas
After missing the last two weeks, two important pieces to the puzzle on the Browns defense are back this week against the Raiders. Linebacker Chris Kirksey and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah will both play this week, their first time playing since week one. Ogbah said earlier this week that “it was definitely tough, but I believe in those guys. Next man up philosophy, that is what this defense is about. They stepped up and made big plays when they needed to.” I wrote a story on Ogbah earlier this week, that I hope you read on what to expect from the third-year defensive end who has been underwhelming at times.
3. Oldie but a goodie
Oakland Raiders wide receiver and former Green Bay Packers star Jordy Nelson was a surprise cut this off-season. Nelson spent a decade in Green Bay, earning second-team All-Pro honors in 2014. The 33-year old wide receiver, Nelson, had six receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins last week. Nelson will be playing former Packer Damarious Randall, who was traded to the Browns this past off-season. Browns executives Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf both spent time with Nelson in Green Bay, and perhaps the Browns even pondered bringing Nelson to Cleveland when he is released. It will be interesting to see how Nelson follows a big week last week against Miami, this week against the Orange and Brown
4. Chuckie is back, and winless
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is back on the sideline after being placed in the booth for the last decade. The Sandusky, Ohio native is winless in his second stint with the Raiders, through three games this season. Head Coach Hue Jackson spoke highly of Gruden saying, “We used to be officemates. He taught me football. We used to argue every day. I know him extremely well. He is extremely competitive, and he does not losing, no more than I did not like losing. Trust me, he is going to get his football team ready to go. We have to be ready to play.” Gruden has made some questionable decisions in his tenure thus far in Oakland. “He signed a big deal this offseason. There were a lot of big moves for their team, and he has been in there,” said Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry. For the Raiders sake, they better hope the $100 million head coach proves something.
5. The last of its kind
The Oakland Raiders play in the last football/baseball field at the professional level. The Raiders share the Oakland Coliseum with the Oakland Athletics, and being that the A’s are still in season, a portion of the field this Sunday will be dirt (the infield). Head Coach Hue Jackson believes it will present some potential challenges for his team saying, “ Baseball field. You better know the dirt. You can slip if you have not been on it before. You do not want the first third down to be a receiver running a route and he slips down because he does not know how to get his feet in the ground the right way. I think that all of those things are important.” Browns defensive back T.J. Carrie feels it will be a challenge as well. “It is hard. That is something that you have to be conscience of as a defensive back, as a linebacker and even as our D linemen are getting off of the ball. That is something that you have to really worry about. We are not going to put too much stress on it. At the end of the day, it is just football,” said Carrie. He is right, it is just football.
Players to Watch
In week one against the Rams, Cook had a big game. The veteran tight end, Cook, had nine receptions for 180 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Cook has the second most yards ran per route in the NFL at his position.
RB Marshawn Lynch
In three games this season, Lynch has compiled three touchdowns on 48 rushing attempts for 170 rushing yards. Last week against Miami, Lynch had three receptions for 22 yards. Pro Football Focus has Lynch graded as the second highest of running backs through three games at a grade of 81.3.
DB Rashaan Melvin
Melvin has had a solid reboot to his career in Oakland. The sixth-year corner, Melvin, has an interception and five passes defended in three games. At a grade of 75.6, Melvin is graded as the 14th best cornerback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
QB Baker Mayfield
This one is obvious. Every Browns fan from coast-to-coast will have their eyes locked on the screen for Sunday’s game. Mayfield had the highest graded performance by a rookie quarterback against the Jets, per Pro Football Focus. Let’s see how the kid does with a week full of reps with the first team.
LB Genard Avery
Pro Football Focus has Avery rated as the best defensive player on the Browns only behind Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. Avery has five tackles, a sack, and a pass defended so far in his rookie campaign.
WR Rashard Higgins
Higgins appeared to be Mayfield’s favorite receiver throughout the preseason. Against the Jets, Mayfield found Higgins along the sideline for a 19-yard gain on the Browns scoring drive. Higgins had a 100% catch against New York, according to Pro Football Focus.
Fun Facts (via Browns official)
- Browns head coach Hue Jackson served as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2011, going 8-8. Senior offensive assistant Al Saunders, OL coach Bob Wylie, and defensive quality control coach Eric Sanders were all on Jackson’s staff in Oakland. (Browns)
- Raiders senior defensive assistant Jim O’Neil was the Browns defensive coordinator from 2014-15. (Browns)
- Browns wide receivers coach Adam Henry spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Raiders from 2009-2014. (Browns)
- Browns assistant offensive line coach Mark Hutson spent three seasons as the Raiders tight ends coach from 2012-2014. (Browns)
- Browns defensive back T.J. Carrie, a native of Antioch, California was a member of the Raiders for the first four years of his career. (Browns)
Injury Report and Guessing Inactives
- LB James Burgess (knee) OUT. Did not practice all week,
- TE Seth DeValve (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE. Was limited all week.
- DB Damarious Randall (heel) QUESTIONABLE. Did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, was limited on Friday.
- QB Tyrod Taylor (concussion/back) QUESTIONABLE. Did not practice Wednesday, was limited the rest of the week.
- DL Myles Garrett (knee) was a full participant all week.
- OL Desmond Harrison (shoulder) was a full participant all week.
- LB Christian Kirksey (shoulder/ankle) was limited on Wednesday and Thursday and was a full participant on Friday.
- WR Jarvis Landry (knee) was a full participant all week.
- DL Emmanuel Ogbah (ankle) was limited on Wednesday and Thursday and was a full participant on Friday.
Other Inactives? (Guessing)
- QB Tyrod Taylor. No reason to rush Taylor back. Sounds like Browns are pessimistic with Taylor playing this week.
- TE Seth DeValve. Seems to be progressing but not quite there yet.
- DL Devaroe Lawrence. Was inactive last week and Ogbah is back.
- DE Anthony Zettel. Ogbah is back.
- LB D’Juan Hines. Kirksey is back.
- DB Tavierre Thomas. Browns already have nine defensive backs in front of him.
Browns 23, Raiders 20
I will be covering the game on my Twitter (@KyleKellyWFNY) and my Quick Hits and More Column will be up on Monday morning.