3TFO: Browns @ Raiders, Week 13
There’s more than just draft-pick maneuvering at stake when the Cleveland Browns travel to play the Oakland Raiders this week. Both teams come in at 3-8, and even though the playoffs are out of reach for both teams, there’s something to be said for a strong finish that can carry a team in to next season.
The Raiders are still on the decline as they’ve lost four straight giving up more than 40 points per game in the process, while the Browns have hung tough in a number of games. Six of Cleveland’s eight losses have been by less than a touchdown, so the rest of this season is going to be about finding a way to win those close games.
Oakland made some news this week by reportedly releasing linebacker Rolando McClain, but we now know that it’s only going to be a two-game suspension. We spent two days pondering McClain’s future and the Raiders’ decision to move on, but as it turns out, he looks to be staying in Oakland.
There are some intriguing matchups in this game, let’s take a look.
Trent Richardson vs. Raiders Linebackers
Rookie running back Trent Richardson may have seen the damage that fellow rookie Doug Martin inflicted on the Raiders defense a few weeks back. Martin ripped off 251 yards on the ground, including forcing 12 missed tackles. Richardson is ninth in the league in Elusive Rating at 35.7, but he’s actually proven to be a more difficult tackle in the passing game rather than on the ground. His 16 missed tackles forced after receptions are first in the league, while his 1.98 yards after contact/attempt on the ground ranks only 19th. It’s been a solid first season for Richardson, but there’s still some work to be done when he’s running the ball.
With McClain out this week, linebackers Miles Burris and Phillip Wheeler will be expected to pick up the slack. Burris already cut into McClain’s snaps, but he’s had a tough time of it during his rookie season. He’s missing one out of every seven tackle attempts, good for 25th out of 29 qualifying 4-3 outside linebackers. He’s currently tied for 11th at the position in Run Stop Percentage at 8.7. Wheeler is well behind Burris with a Run Stop Percentage of 5.8, ranking 24th among the top 27. Replacing McClain will be recently signed linebacker Omar Gaither, who has yet to take a defensive snap this season. The seven-year veteran graded at +2.1 against the run last year in seven games as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
Marcel Reece vs. Browns Front Seven
With starting running back Darren McFadden injured, Marcel Reece has taken advantage of the opportunities in recent weeks. He’s run well in the Raiders’ zone blocking scheme that has been sporadic throughout the season. Reece has forced 17 missed tackles between his 48 carries and 41 receptions, good for an Elusive Rating of 68.0. Reece’s hard running style could prove to be a perfect complement to McFadden’s big-play ability in the years to come.
In Cleveland, the Browns were helped by the return of 2011 first-round pick Phil Taylor in Week 9. He’s been eased into the action, playing only 45 percent of the snaps, but he’s been good against the run grading at +1.7 with four stops. At linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson has not been as effective as he’d been the last couple years. His Run Stop Percentage of 7.3 is only 32nd among inside linebackers. Second-year linebacker Craig Robertson is our worst tackling 4-3 outside linebacker, missing one every 4.8 attempts. Nine of his 12 missed tackles have come in the passing game so if Reece gets matched up with him, we could be looking at a big play for the Raiders.
Pass Blocking Left Tackles
Even though they won’t be seeing each other directly on the field, keep an eye on the left tackles. Cleveland’s Joe Thomas has been one of the best in the league for a few years now, while Oakland’s Jared Veldheer has made huge strides in his third season. Thomas is first in the league with a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 97.8 while Veldheer ranks 15th at 96.0.
Both players appear to have favorable matchups this week. Thomas will see a lot of defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, who has only picked up 14 total pressures on his 286 pass rush attempts. Backup Andre Carter has not been much better with his six total pressures on his 86 attempts. For Cleveland, they’ll send Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker off the right end. Rucker has only 16 total pressures on 202 attempts while Parker has been Cleveland’s most consistent pass rusher as his Pass Rush Productivity of 8.1 ranks 25th among 4-3 defensive ends.
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