Once again, the Raiders are headed into a must win and they couldn’t have a more ironic game. The Browns come into town giving Baker Mayfield his first NFL Start. Hue Jackson also returns to Oakland riding the high of his first win in damn near two years.
Moreover, Hue returns to the team that fired him after an 8-8 season. There’s an argument that he deserved it because he abused his power and Reggie McKenzie was bent on changing the culture. Now, the entire culture that McKenzie built is in jeopardy with Jon Gruden now having the biggest salary, ego and shot-calling rights. Still, a loss here would signify that the entire seven seasons was a waste. Not only would it redeem Jackson as a coach but it may cost McKenzie his job as Gruden continue pointing fingers for this 0-4. A loss here could bring the Raiders full circle and back to square one. What a way to end an era and have the bottom fall out of a franchise… You couldn’t make up this much irony in a story.
Yes, a loss here would signify Hue Jackson’s revenge. It would prove the old man, Al Davis, was right when he believed Jackson could lead and team. Remember, Al took a chance on Hue after limited OC experience. Jackson was the last coach Davis would hire and he kept the team in the playoff hunt until the final week (Sorry, for the hard memories).
Still, Hue also got blackballed from head coaching jobs for a few years after the fall out of the Raiders. A win for Hue might also lead Raiders fans to second guess why they even let the man go after a .500 season.
In Reggie we trust, right?
Well, now it appears Reggie and most of his guys are in the rear view like Hue was when Reggie came in. Karma is a b… but Reggie should understand a new head honcho bring in, ‘his guys,’ since that’s exactly what he did.
Moreover, you don’t have to be an NFL insider to understand what is happening in the Raiders locker room. There are reports that Gruden is already phasing out McKenzie and his guys in roster decisions. Gruden is listening to his own advisors and personnel people instead of McKenzie’s scouting and personnel people. McKenzie re-did that entire group when he came in not too long ago so I don’t think it would be a good thing to start over again.
Of course, you could make the argument that phasing out Reggie isn’t a bad thing. Fact is, he hasn’t drafted or developed well over the past few seasons. Mack was the best thing he ever did and he is gone. Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, Amari Cooper and Karl Joseph were once seen as hits but they’ve regressed under Gruden so far. The jury is still out on Gareon Conley and other draft pick still on the roster. Otherwise, many draft picks aren’t on the roster anymore. Shout out to Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr., David Sharpe, Obi Melifonwu and many more. The point is, maybe Gruden is justified in phasing out McKenzie who has only seen one winning season.
The Step Parents
Again, it isn’t that complicated to understand what is going on in Oakland. Anyone with step parents can understand how players favored by McKenzie might feel.
Gruden is the sexy, new stepdad swooning Mark Davis. Davis is so happy he is willing to give Gruden as much power as he wants. On one hand, you could stay loyal to the person that put you on the team, Reggie McKenzie, but you risk the backlash from Gruden or Davis in terms of losing your roster spot. You could also sellout and behave with the new sheriff in town.
Either way, it’s a conundrum where you get your ass beat either way. You can say Gruden ain’t my dad as much as you want and tell your mom that he ain’t it but that isn’t going to do anything but make you look immature. You can stay loyal to McKenzie but soon enough you’ll be out in the cold with him.
Ok, Back to Clevland
That’s enough family laundry. Let’s look into the actual game this week.
The offense is lead by the combination of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. What do these men have in common? A philosophy that has always included running the ball and using multiple backs. They’ll also use the RB as a pass catcher so expect Duke Johnson to see mismatches versus the Raiders all day. They will also take their shots downfield, especially with Antonio Callaway and David Njoku creating speed nightmares versus the Raiders safeties.
Moreover, I’d expect some adjustments this week. Cleveland should go full RG3 rookie year by utilizing Baker in bootleg play actions and plenty of reading options. The Raiders ends are undersized and overaggressive. They and their spin moves will get out of their passing lanes and lose contain. They also struggle to keep the edge as we learned with that jet sweep versus the Dolphins and the stretch play versus the Rams. Both Key and BI like to chase backside too so expect Baker to get some yards on keepers as well as the RBS having cutback seems for days. The Raiders ends will need to step up and pressure the QB without sacrificing their assignments if Oakland has any chance in this game.
Greg Williams has orchestrated a Super Bowl defense previously in New Orleans and set the foundation for another potential one in L.A. Either way, he’s in Cleveland now and finally putting together all of his athletes into a real defense. The Browns are top ten in points and top twelve in yards. They’ll get after the QB and create some turnovers.
Williams is notorious for taking chances with aggressive blitzes and coverages from a base 4-3 defense but they’re calculated risks. In this game, Williams should be able to lean on his front four to get a rush. Between Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and Larry Ogunjobi. The Raiders offensive line has been stout but they’ll need to do more to finish drives. Oakland’s offense has mostly been dink and dunk but last week we saw them hit on some big plays. Still, they left too many points on the board. They will need to convert those especially as their defense wears down in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, this won’t be an easy home win for either side of the ball but the Raiders need to figure out a way if they have any hopes of keeping the bottom from falling out of the season.