Week 8 is about to kick off as the writers at Realbrownsfans.com will give us some thoughts about the Browns and what might happen today at First Energy Stadium.
1) Do you buy into Baker playing better without OBJ?
Out of the Rafters:
I do not believe that removing a talented player from the offense makes the offense better. I do believe that Baker is a better passer under certain conditions. If he’s in the shotgun, or takes a deeper drop, he is more comfortable than when he is under center. When he has a clear view of his tackles, he is more comfortable in the pocket than when he is blind to what’s going on. It just so happens that the first time this season we put Baker in predominantly shotgun and deep drops was after OBJ left.
I believe that, if we see Stefanski and Van Pelt put Baker in these situations more often, his passing numbers will be better. I do not believe that this will be caused by OBJ not being on the field.
I think OBJ does a lot of great things for this offense (drawing attention, blocking his ass off). For some reason the connection to Baker hasn’t been the same as with most of our other receivers. I’m torn on this one because it makes absolutely no sense for the offense to look better with less physical talent on the field. That being said I am banking on seeing more “2018 Baker” spreading the ball around to what is still a very good group of receivers if you include TE’s.
The sample size is small, but there appears to be some legitimacy to the narrative that Baker operates better without OBJ. It is certainly no fault of OBJ’s, but it seems Baker is in his own head worrying about OBJ when he’s on the field. When OBJ is off the field, Baker operates normally and the offense overall is better for it. We’ll have at least 9 (hopefully more) games to see how Baker does without OBJ. By then, we’ll have a pretty good idea of both their roles on this team moving forward.
Yes. Even if Baker is subconsciously looking to throw to OBJ for whatever reason, being freed and forced to look for other receivers will be very beneficial. We may see more of 2018 Baker when he spread the ball around very well.
2) What, in your opinion, is wrong with the defense at the moment?
Out of the Rafters:
It’s a lack of talent. I think Ronnie Harrison is the only safety on our roster who should be starting in the NFL. I think Denzel Ward is an absolute stud, and Terrence Mitchell has performed great as our #2 corner when he was supposed to be a third or fourth corner at best. I don’t think we have a starting quality linebacker on the roster. I don’t think we have a second defensive end on this roster. Vernon has been disappointing. When you fail at so many positions, you’re going to be exploited in the NFL.
The Browns defense has three or four difference makers and the rest would be better suited as situational substitutions or just haven’t been playing well. We cannot expect that to be enough to stop today’s offenses. The Browns are currently ranked 29th in points given up per game at 31.6. Baltimore and Pittsburgh average less than 20 per game. It’s looking like we have to roll with what we have for this season, but there should be a determined effort to fill some holes this offseason.
The Linebackers and Safeties have only one semi-capable starter total — Ronnie Harrison. This leaves the defense extremely vulnerable in the middle of the field, both in the run and passing game. These holes were evident before the season began; struggles were inevitable.
A better way to talk about it would be to ask what is working well. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. They have been superb. Garrett is looking like the Defensive Player of the Year. Sheldon Richardson is also playing well, and Vernon when healthy has spurts of greatness. But that is where it ends. They have so many injuries that it is impossible for the unit to play well over the long run. A team simply cannot lose that much talent, that many bodies, and perform at a high level. No team, without insane depth, would be able to play to their promise under those conditions.
Add to that the Browns already had some gaps in their personnel and we have a defense that is very much a work in progress.
3) Do you have faith in the current receiving options the Browns have on their roster with OBJ out?
Out of the Rafters:
If Jarvis is healthy, I have faith in him to get open and be a reliable target for Baker. I trust that Higgins will know what to do on the field, and be reliable when targeted. I do not believe we have any explosiveness in our current receiving corps. This lack of downfield threat will bring defenses forward and threaten our running game. I think the counter to this is play action and athletic tight ends who can attack vertically up the seams. Luckily, Stefanski loves to call these plays, Baker thrives on these plays, and Njoku and Bryant both excel at these types of plays. So, I think our offense will continue to roll once we get our health back, even without OBJ.
I have faith in the receivers we have. This includes our TE room, which might be one of the best in the league. It’s not like the Browns have been a deep shot offense so far this season (Unless Landry or OBJ are throwing it). The other receivers will have to step up, as well as our TE’s and backs out of the backfield.
Yes. Baker has had a great connection with Landry & Higgins dating back to 2018. Hodge was just brought back from IR and showed some promise earlier in the season. DPJ looks like he can play as well. It’s a group with little depth, and one injury will make it real thin, but if everyone stays healthy, it will suffice.
They still have Landry, a couple good pass catching TEs and a duo of Pro-Bowl running backs. Guys are going to have to step up but I think that Coach will have them ready and guys are going to surprise us.
4) What’s your prediction for Sunday against the Raiders?
Out of the Rafters:
I predict that the Raiders continue to tighten up on offense. Carr doesn’t stretch the field, which allows us to keep their run game plugged up. Our defense puts up a statistically strong outing and we do enough on offense to move to 6-2 on the year.
This game could have huge implications for the chase for a playoff spot down the line. The Browns offense should be able to move the ball on the Raiders, as they are one of only three teams giving up more points per game than the Browns at 32.8. The issue will be, can the Browns force a couple turnovers or get a couple stops? It will be tough for anyone on our team to cover TE Darren Waller, who is 11th in the league in receptions at 40. I say the Browns get a turnover or two and outscore the Raiders 33-28.
This figures to be another hard fought game, but the Browns should come out on top. The Raiders offense has some weapons but not enough to overcome their defense, which is struggling even more than Cleveland’s.
I am hoping the offense is as prolific as the last time they played, but this time they need to play good enough defense to not let the referees hand the game to the Raiders like they did in 2018. Browns 44 Raiders 33.