The Cleveland Browns have had a rough couple of weeks. Running back Peyton Hillis did himself no favors by continuing to address his contract situation and the game he missed against the Miami Dolphins. Up-and-coming star cornerback Joe Haden sprained his left knee against the Tennessee Titans and is out for today’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Everyone – the fans and media – are wondering how
That being said, the Browns were given a chance to hit the restart button, thanks to the bye week. The team is 2-2, but there was a sense that head coach Pat Shurmur was dealing with far more criticism than he should have only four games into his rookie season at the helm. He has already made it known that he plans on using Hillis as much as possible, which was the right move. He needed to put a plug on the Montario Hardesty-Peyton Hillis debate, and he has seemingly done just that.
The Browns will also need to find a way to finally get a quality win. As of right now, the Browns’ only wins have come across winless teams (the Dolphins and Colts) and haven’t played particularly well as of late. The offense is sputtering and the defense won’t be able to hold up over the entire season if forced to be on the field for so long each and every game. The loss of Haden, albeit possibly only for one week, is still a big blow to the defense.
And this is without the mention of Raiders running back Darren McFadden, who leads the league in rushing going into today’s games. The Browns currently rank near the bottom of the league in rush defense, giving up 124.5 yards per game. If they can’t contain McFadden, it’s going to be a long day.
The offense obviously needs to show some improvement as well in order to pull off the upset. The team had the bye week to retool and rethink the offense, leading to Shurmur placing rookie wide receiver Greg Little in the starting lineup. It was the right move to make, as it puts Little and Mohamed Massaquoi (the team’s best playmakers at the position) on the field as much as possible.
Will that make much of a difference for the offense? It’s hard to say, but it can’t hurt at this point. Shurmur is obviously still trying to figure out how best to utilize his limited weapons on offense, but one this is for sure: The Browns need to get more creative on offense. Open up the playbook and keep opposing defenses off-guard. Even if the throws downfield aren’t successful, it’s important to show that you’re willing to make a play like that.
It’s the only way to win a game on the road against a team like the Raiders. That being said, will the Browns make those necessary adjustments?