By Tony Grossi
Browns vs. Oakland Raiders
Sunday, 4:25 p.m., in O.co Coliseum, Oakland, CA
Last game: Lost, 34-17, to Cincinnati Bengals, Nov. 25, in Cincinnati.
Coach: Dennis Allen, 3-8, first year.
Series record: Raiders lead, 13-9, counting postseason.
Last meeting: Raiders won, 24-17, Oct. 16, 2011, in Oakland.
League rankings: Offense is 15th overall (29th rushing, eighth passing), defense is 25th (28th rushing, 24th passing) and turnover differential is minus-7.
Offensive overview: On his second tour of duty with this team, coordinator Greg Knapp has tried to incorporate the zone-blocking run schemes of Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak. One big problem: Running back Darren McFadden is not a one-cut runner. It was apparent McFadden did not warm to the style before he suffered a high ankle sprain. In his place the past three games, the feature back has been 250-pound fullback Marcel Reece. He’s a between-the-tackles plugger and he doesn’t help Knapp’s play-action passing game. There are still two remnants of late czar Al Davis’ track-star approach at wide receiver – Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey. However, QB Carson Palmer still hasn’t developed much chemistry with either after 20 starts with this team. Palmer has two Pick 6’s and is a shadow of the quarterback who used to ring up big numbers against the Browns with the Bengals. This offense desperately lacks playmakers. The thought of lining up former Buckeye Terrelle Pryor as a Wildcat quarterback hasn’t crossed their minds; he’s been inactive all 11 games.
Defensive overview: The worst defense in the league (32 ppg) has given up 30 points five times, 40 once and 50 once. First-year head coach Dennis Allen is trying to do what he did at Denver under John Fox. Instead of focusing on one thing his players might be able to do, Allen wants to be multiple and could change up from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 from series to series. The result is nobody seems to know what they’re doing and they give up an awful lot of gigantic plays. Case in point: BenJarvus Green-Ellis had the two longest runs of his career in the same game last week in Cincinnati. They’ve given up 15 rushing touchdowns and yield 4.7 yards per rush attempt. Plus, there is no pass pressure to speak of and the cornerback roster was depleted by salary cap casualties and injuries.
Special teams overview: PK Sebastian Janikowski is 23 of 24 in field goals with a long of 55 yards, and has 30 touchbacks on kickoffs. P Shane Lechler is fourth in gross average (48.3 yards) and 22nd in net (38.3). The perennial Pro Bowler has not been the same since have knee surgery on his plant leg in preseason. The return units are unspectacular; former Browns draft bust Coye Francies averages 24.6 yards on kickoff returns. The coverage units are average, at best, and have given up a 105-yard touchdown return to Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones.
Players to watch:
1. QB Carson Palmer: Long past his prime while spending eight years in Cincinnati, the former No. 1 overall draft pick is 7-13 as the Raiders’ starter. They gave up two high draft picks in trade for him and still owe him about $30 million over the next two years. He’s 32.
2. WR Denarius Moore: The second-year speedster from Tennessee can fly, but he’s often on a different page than Palmer. He’s their most dangerous receiver with 36 catches for 604 yards (16.8 average) and six TDs.
3. LB Philip Wheeler: An energetic tackler having his finest NFL season in his first year with the Raiders, he can surprise with a well-timed blitz on occasion.
Injury report: RB Darren McFadden (high ankle), DE Richard Seymour (hamstring) and RB Mike Goodson (high ankle) have missed the past three games. Each is expected back to practice this week.
Small world: Defensive back Coye Francies was a Browns sixth-round draft pick in 2009 and stayed through 2010 … Quarterback Terrelle Pryor played at Ohio State … Safety Mike Mitchell played at Ohio University.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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