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Game Preview: Raiders at Browns

The Oakland Raiders travel to Cleveland, Ohio, to take on the Browns for the team's first road game since Week 3 against the New England Patriots. Although the Silver and Black spent a week in London and played their Week 4 match-up at Wembley Stadium, the Raiders were the home team, and thus have technically played three-straight home games (not including the bye week).

The Raiders are still searching for their first win of the season and will face a Browns team coming off a disappointing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cleveland is led by Head Coach Mike Pettine, a coach with whom both Raiders Head Coach Tony Sparano and G Austin Howard are familiar from their days with the New York Jets."Mike has always done a really good job," said Coach Sparano. "I have the utmost respect for him and what he's doing down there with that football team right now. When we were together at the Jets, he's a really smart guy that gets the most out of his players. They play hard and that's what Cleveland is doing now, they're playing hard."

Howard remembers Coach Pettine as a guy with a lot of attitude and go-get-em nature. "From what I remember, Coach Pettine is a coach with a lot of passion for this game," said Howard. "Obviously, he wants to go out there and win."

Coach Pettine praised the talent the Raiders have on offense during his conference call with the Bay Area media. "It's hard to believe that they're 0-6. There's some talent there. I think offensively it's an explosive group of skill players," said Coach Pettine. "James Jones is playing well. Brice Butler jumps off the tape. I know he doesn't get a ton of touches, but when he does, he's a major threat. By far the biggest offensive line we'll have gone against. [Darren] McFadden seems to be his usual, explosive self. Then very impressed with the quarterback. We did a lot of work on Derek [Carr] in the draft process and he looks very much well ahead of the curve, very mature. We said it back during the draft that he had the best arm talent of anybody in his class. It's not a surprise to anybody here how well he's playing."

The offense, led by Carr, wants to get the run game going, especially against a Browns team ranked last in run defense. "You certainly would hope so," said Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson when asked about exploiting the run game. "Obviously, you look at those things every time you go in a game as you study your opponents and are looking for an edge or an advantage. That's one that we look at."

If the Raiders can be productive on the ground, the offense can open up the passing game. Carr will be faced with another skilled secondary when he takes the FirstEnergy Stadium field. "Very talented. There are a lot of first-round-type picks on that defense – very physical," said Carr. "But very talented. That's one thing that when you first turn it on, it jumps out at you like, 'Wow, these guys are really talented individuals.'"

CB Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner highlight the Browns secondary and will be a challenge for the receivers. "We just to have win our one-on-one matchups," said WR Andre Holmes. "We have to get ourselves open, especially on third down and on plays where he's going to look to come to us. We have to be there. We always have to be there and be open. That's the bottom line."

Carr has had a lot of time to throw to his receivers because of the solid play of the Raiders offensive line. The linemen look to continue that success this weekend in Cleveland. "We just have to continue to practice well," said Howard. "We can't be up and down; we have to stay consistent, keep guys healthy, keep guys on the field. We have to go out there with a go-get 'em type of attitude. We haven't been perfect, but I do believe we've been getting better each and every week."

That consistency-mentality applies for the entirety of the Raiders offense, as well as the defense. The Raiders rank in the top half of the league in pass defense, but have struggled in run defense. They are looking for improvement and consistency during this Week 8 match-up.

The players believe that consistency is obtainable because of the improvement they see on a daily basis during practice. "We're just going a little bit harder. We know what's at stake and we're a good team," said DE Benson Mayowa. "We're working to be the best team we can. That's what we're doing. Coach [Sparano] is getting the best out of us every day as you can see. That's what we're doing. We're improving on and off the field, in the classroom and on the field."

Mayowa and the rest of the defensive line will be getting after Browns QB Brian Hoyer this Sunday. "They move him a lot. They do a bunch of different things with him that way," said Coach Sparano. "They run an awful lot of boot and play-actions to get him out of the pocket and have him throw the ball on the run. He's throwing the ball down the field quite a bit right now. When you look at them, they're actually the top team in the league, as far as ball traveling in the air, meaning, where the ball is from point A to point B, that ball is traveling in the air the most in the league right now."

The Browns expect LB Khalil Mack to challenge Hoyer throughout the game. "He's a guy that is playing on the ball a lot as a stand-up 'nine-technique,' and I think he's doing a really good job against tight ends, especially in the running game," said Coach Pettine on Mack. "He was a guy that was definitely highly rated on our board. We thought a lot of him coming out. And sometimes you don't necessarily get the sack production and people can be fooled by that. We look at the effectiveness of a rusher – how much they're affecting the quarterback. They might not be getting the finish, they might be causing production for somebody else."


Hoyer looks for his receivers down the field often, as Coach Sparano mentioned earlier. The Raiders secondary will have to be ready. "So far, Hoyer has been very good with his pass progressions, getting the ball to his receivers, completing deep balls in the air and they're very successful at that so you definitely have to stay top down," said CB TJ Carrie. "I think all of the wide receivers we're playing against this week are very talented. They each have their own individual skills that they're good at so you definitely have to study them a lot on tape."

The Raiders have dealt with several injuries in their secondary, so guys will have to step up to defend the pass. "They do a good job of formations and changing tempos and running the ball and then making the run and the pass game look the same to the defense and then taking shots," said Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver. "We need to do two things. One, we need to set edges and use our hands in the run game to limit their runs so that they can't go run, run, run, run and then throw a shot so it feels the same, that's one. Then two is top-down coverage. We have to play top-down on this football team, meaning if they throw underneath we can go rally and go get them. So, it's the run game in our hands and our edges and then our coverage aspect needs to be top-down regardless of the form of coverage that we're in."

In addition to dynamic RBs Ben Tate, Travis Benjamin, and Isaiah Crowell, and WRs Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin and Taylor Gabriel, the Browns also have a productive tight end in Jordan Cameron. "He's a good overall player," said LB Sio Moore. "He has strong hands and is a good route runner. I think if we do what we have to do on the defensive side of the ball, we can control and limit what he can do. I'm excited for the challenge to go against a good player."

The Raiders have spent the week studying their opponent and look forward to taking on the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. But the most important progress they have made at their Alameda facility is working and focusing on what Oakland needs to do to come home with the "W."

The players and coaches believe in their team. They understand it's just a matter of doing what needs to be done for the entire 60 minutes. "The key for us to go out and play the game in which we know we can play," said Howard. "We haven't showed up and finished an entire four quarters of a game yet. I believe we all know that. I believe the coaching staff knows that, the players definitely know that. We just have to go out and play four quarters that we know we can play."

Catch the Raiders at the Browns at 1:25 p.m. PT on CBS 5, listen on 95.7 The GAME, or follow along on, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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