CANTON, Ohio- Can the Browns finally establish a running game consistently? The defense and whoever is under center hopes so!
The Cleveland Browns are in desperate need of an identity on offense. And, based off their roster on paper, they sure hope that running the ball will be much more improved from last year.
The Browns ranked 28th in the league in rushing with 3,264 yards. They averaged 6.5 yards a carry. In other words, not good.
Cleveland went out and made improvements to the offensive line. They signed Joel Bitonio to an extension, brought in center J.C. Tretter from Green Bay and signed one of the best right guards in football in Kevin Zeitler. Signing Zeitler did two things. It weakened a division rival in Cincinnati and strengthened the Browns offensive line. Cleveland now has quality starting offensive linemen. They are hoping for better depth now.
With the improvements made to the line, A lot is expected out of Isaiah Crowell who, last year, ran for 952 yards off 198 attempts. My only problem with Crowell is his lack of patients. He doesn’t always do the best job of waiting for holes to open to run through.
Duke Johnson can be used to run up the middle and even as a wide receiver. Johnson hasn’t been used as the main back yet, but his role will likely increase due to a lack of quality at WR.
Cleveland also drafted Matt Dayes out of North Carolina State. He’ll see plenty of time the first two games of preseason. He could be a good change of pace back for Cleveland.
Dan Vitale is the fullback. He’s considered small by normal FB standards, but the report on Vitale is that he can block and can also be used to catch passes out of the backfield.
The Cleveland Browns could really take a big step in the right direction if the running game can go from 28th to being ranked in the top 10. Is that a stretch? Absolutely! That’s hoping that they move up 20 spots to 8th. Can it be done? Yes, but this line has to be healthy and gel quickly. On the other hand, if Cleveland struggles to have a good or great running game consistently, they could very easily take steps in the wrong direction. The running game, in combination with better O-line play, is crucial for Cleveland this year.
If the Browns are going to win any games this year, they’ll look to keep the scoring down. Cleveland doesn’t have the offense to win a shootout. They’ll need to control the pace of the game with the run game. If they can create a good rushing offense, they can force the defense to bring more defenders to the line of scrimmage which, would allow for deep passes with one on one coverage because the safeties would have to honor the rushing attack and give help up front to their defensive line and linebackers. A quality rushing attack would also allow Hue Jackson to open up the play book for play-action passes and dare I say…..a flea flicker or two throughout the season.
The Browns 2017 season could very well rest on the hands of how well they can run the ball and also if the Browns defense can create more 3 and outs on defense. The defense must be able to get off the field without allowing offenses to constantly convert on 3rd downs.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Nick broulis