Photo credit: @Raiders
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND — With the first quarter of the season drawing to a close, the Oakland Raiders are in dire need of their first win…and they hope it’ll be versus the Cleveland Browns.
After playing two of their first three games of the season on the road, the Raiders return home to play two of their next three games beginning this Sunday when they will host the Browns and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.
Week 4’s matchup will mark only the second time since the Browns have traveled to the Black Hole and their most recent game, in 2015 at Cleveland, the Raiders defeated the Browns 27-20 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. PT. The Browns are 12-10 all-time versus the Raiders in the regular season.
Last week, Oakland (0-3) lost to the first-place AFC East Miami Dolphins 28-20 in South Florida. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson had the biggest day for the Raiders, hauling in six catches for 173 yards (28.8 yards per catch) and a touchdown. In his last two meeting with the Dolphins, Nelson has destroyed Miami catching 15 passes for 280 yards (18.8 yards per catch) and two touchdowns.
Nelson became just the third Raider pass-catcher this season to top 100 yards in a game, joining tight end Jared Cook (180 yards against the Rams in Week 1), and fellow wide receiver Amari Cooper (116 yards against AFC West rival Denver in Week 2), making Oakland one of two teams to accomplish the feat.
Quarterback Derek Carr threw for 345 yards on 27-of-39 attempts with one touchdown and two interceptions. It was Carr’s second 300-yard passing day of the season (Carr threw for 303 yards against the Rams in Week 1). Through the first three games of the season, Carr is sixth in the NFL in passing yards per game (302) and second in completion percentage (76.6).
Oakland held a 17-7 lead midway through the third quarter before the Dolphins scored 21 unanswered points in the second-half to overtake the Raiders. Before kicker Mike Nugent booted a 52-yard field goal, the Raiders didn’t score a single point in the fourth quarter in their previous two games.
Speaking of Nugent, the Raiders placed Nugent on injured reserve with a hip injury and signed kicker Matt McCrane. McCrane is in his first year in the NFL after signing as an undrafted free agent with Arizona at the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Strangely, the Raiders have led after three quarters in each of their previous three games but have yet to notch a win this season.
The Browns (1-1-1) are coming off 21-17 victory over the New York Jets in Cleveland on Thursday Night Football. Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson is just 2-32-1 as he enters his third season at the helm. Jackson, who spent 2010 as the Raiders’ offensive coordinator, was promoted to head coach in 2011 where he led the club to an 8-8 finish, but wasn’t retained as the team hired Dennis Allen heading into the 2012 season.
Allen finished 8-28 in his two-plus seasons in Oakland before being fired four games into the 2014 season as the team got off to a 1-10 start.
For Cleveland, quarterback Baker Mayfield will make his first-career NFL start when he leads the Browns into the Black Hole. Mayfield was selected first overall by the Browns in this year’s NFL Draft, but the Browns opted to start the season with Taylor under center and wanted Mayfield to watch and learn.
With Cleveland trailing 14-3 shortly before halftime, the rookie replaced veteran Tyrod Taylor, who was already playing poorly completing just 4-of-14 passes for 19 yards, when Taylor suffered his third concussion in the past 13 months.
In the second half, Mayfield energize that team and the home crowd, helping the Browns outscore the Jets 18-3. Mayfield threw for 201 yards on 17-of-23 attempts and even caught a two-point conversion from wide receiver Jarvis Landry that tied the game 14-14 in the third quarter.
Landry caught a game-high eight catches for 103 yards against the Jets, and leads the Browns with 20 catches for 278 yards. Rookie wide receiver Antonio Callaway has the Browns’ lone touchdown catch this season.
Running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 98 yards on 22 attempts and scored two touchdowns last week and given the Raiders inability to stop the run, (Oakland surrenders 116.3 yards on the ground per game, which ranks 22nd in the NFL), there could be some opportunities for Hyde to have another big game.
Defensively, Cleveland has some good, young players on that side of the ball that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can mold into a formidable group.
Second-year defensive end Myles Garrett has become one of the more feared pass rushers in the NFL. Garrett’s four sacks this season are tied for the most in the NFL with New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan, Chicago defensive end Khalil Mack (sorry Raider Nation), and Von Miller.
Garrett also has two forced fumbles.
Fellow defensive lineman in second-year defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi is quickly making a name for himself too, pacing second on the Browns with three sacks.
Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, who the Browns selected fourth in the same draft as Mayfield, has played great for Cleveland so far this season. In his first pro game, Ward intercepted Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice.
Ward leads the team with two interceptions and along with fellow cornerback Terrance Mitchell, has solidified Cleveland’s pass defense.
Following Sunday’s game, the Raiders heads south to Los Angeles for a tough matchup in the AFC West against the Chargers in Week 5 before flying to London to take on the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6, while Cleveland will head home to prepare for back-to-back visits from AFC North rival the Baltimore Ravens and Chargers.