Cleveland Browns Lack of Running Could Have Been Due to Offensive Line and a Safety

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Updated: September 10, 2013

In a league that exploded with offensive production in Week 1, including Denver, San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia, one team that fell drastically short of expectations was the Cleveland Browns. With the preseason and offseason hype surrounding head coach Rob Chudzinski’s offense prowess, offensive coordinator Norv Turner‘s successful track record, the improved look of quarterback Brandon Weeden and a finally healthy Trent Richardson, many expected the Browns to be drastically better at putting points on the board. Instead, the Browns appeared to be lost for much of the day while only managing 10 points in a 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

With Turner’s past resume featuring powerhouse running backs like Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson, analysts and fans alike expected a heavy dose of Richardson pounding the rock between the tackles. To the puzzlement of everyone, however, the last second ticked off the clock and Richardson had notched just 13 carries. To put that in perspective, last year he averaged 17.8 carries per game, and that was while coming off surgery and having broken ribs. So the big question on everyone’s mind is why didn’t one of the Browns top playmakers see the field much?

The speculation has already begun that Richardson is hiding the severity of his injuries, as he has taken a lot of heat this year for allegedly being injury prone. The allegations have come so much that Richardson has addressed it on multiple occasions, stating via the Akron Beacon-Journal, “It’s not going to be like last year, being hurt and injured. Injury-prone is not going to be me. It’s just a mindset, and I know that’s not going to be me.”

While these comments were made before Richardson’s latest preseason bout with a shin injury, there is no doubt that he still believes it to be true. For the sake of Browns fans around the country, there will be fingers crossed that he can remain healthy and become a bigger part of the offense. Implying he is indeed healthy, however, what reason could there be for Richardson seeing only thirteen carries?

Quite simply, the play-calling demanded it. Let’s face it, the Browns veteran coordinator has been around the block, he isn’t clueless as to what he’s doing. He has rode the likes of Tomlinson and Smith into the record books throughout the course of his career, he knows the value of a good running game. What may Turner have seen that could have made him abandon the run so early? A cheating safety for one.

Throughout the duration of the game, a review of the tape clearly shows the safety cheating up into the box frequently, leaving veteran receiver Davone Bess wide open on a number of occasions. On multiple plays, if Weeden could have hit Bess in stride on his routes, the Browns could easily have been looking at a very different scoreboard today. This tendency is likely what Turner noticed, as taking advantage of the habit could have gashed the defense time and time again.

To say the missed opportunity is an error in progression on Weeden would be an unfair assessment. The second-year quarterback spent the vast majority of the game under pressure, with the Dolphins accumulating hurries, knockdowns or sacks on seemingly every play. The Dolphins officially racked up six sacks and three interceptions, but how the game unfolded made it look even worse than that. The ability to hit Bess on the previously mentioned routes may not have even been possible, since it is awfully tough to run through progressions with linebackers in your line of sight.

The right guard position occupied by Oniel Cousins will also need to be addressed this week in either practice or outside means. Single-handedly responsible for four penalties for 35 yards, partially responsible for two batted passes and spending the majority of the game in the backfield is no way to prove you can handle the position. While rookie Garrett Gilkey did not drop any jaws during preseason, one would think he would have to perform better than Cousins did on Sunday afternoon.

When the dominoes start falling, poor play from the guard position affects the entire line, which affects the quarterback’s ability to make reads, and yes, affects the carries of the running back. If the team can’t address the offensive line this week, expect to see more of the same out of Richardson against Baltimore.

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One Comment

  1. MJM

    September 11, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Sam, while you have accurately analyzed the problems on offense, you did not mention, even indirectly, that besides the safety, and the poor play of the right ‘no’guard, the failure of the team to obtain a 1. Fullback (quality FB’s, yes even a pro bowl FB) was not obtained in the draft or free agency. Leach would have made a difference, assuming he wasn’t knocked down by Cousins as he was flying backwards while being runover by the defense;

    2. Despite the hope that Lauvo and Pinkston would be (barely) adequate, the Browns drafted in a position of relative strength in Mingo, instead of the stud guard that was available. Or how about getting a guard in FA or with the 4th or 5th pick.

    3. No depth in the defensive backfield. Who’s fault is that?

    Yes, Weeden did not play up to expectations. And maybe if we had Luck instead, the outcome would have been different. Maybe Luck doesn’t need a FB, right guard or right tackle to win since he can throw pin point passes while in the death grip of a linbacker or DE. But sadly Weeden needs some semblance of protection, however ephemeral, to get an accurate pass off.

    I think this was a total team loss, and the blame cannot be placed totally on Weeden, the players or the coaches. Unless the FO can regroup and get some critically needed help at this late stage, if it is not already too late, we could be getting the the wish of the FO to be drafting first next year.

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