Coming into the 2014 season, it appeared as though the Browns had not done nearly enough to improve upon their dismal performance on the offensive side of the football in 2013. The Browns offense finished the 2013 season rated 27th in points scored per game, but is currently rated 9th in the NFL with 26.8 points per game. How did they right the ship when their personnel hardly changed?
Considering the loss of Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, many including myself believed that the Browns would struggle mightily moving the football. However, the Browns have been able to achieve continuity on offense by having success in an area they failed in last season — the run game. So far, the Browns have run for 146.4 yards per game, which places them 3rd in the NFL this season.
While their passing offense is ranked 17th in the NFL, Browns’ triggerman Brian Hoyer has been incredibly efficient completing 60.4% of his passes for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns. Hoyer has proven himself to be an outstanding decision maker at the top of his drops, and his timing with the receivers has improved dramatically since the preseason.
Below is a list of tools the Browns have used to generate offense:
The Run Game
Hoyer’s efficiency is accentuated by the effectiveness of the run. In recent weeks, the Browns’ commitment to the run game has forced opposing defenses to place more defenders in the box to stop the run. The Browns offensive line has done an outstanding job this season particularly on outside zone calls on the backside.
Though Alex Mack was lost for the season, John Greco was able to fill in for him while Paul McQuistan settled in Greco’s right guard spot and didn’t miss a beat. The Browns’ running backs are doing an outstanding job cutting back against the flow of the defense, which neutralizes linebackers’ ability to get a jump on the play.
The Browns have made certain to take advantage of defense’s eagerness to stop the run with explosive plays off of play action. In an effort to provide protection on play-action passes, the Browns have employed up to three tight ends to give Hoyer time to get rid of the football.
Another way they’ve been able to generate big plays off of play action is by moving Jordan Cameron around to generate mismatches. Cameron has lined up on the flanks, as well as in the slot to get favorable mismatches on smaller cornerbacks, and linebackers who do not possess the speed to keep up with him.
The Browns have occasionally been able to get one-on-one matchups by utilizing bunch formations, which aided Hoyer in determining where the ball should go more quickly. Bunch formations also give smaller-quick-twitch wide receivers a free release, which is certainly advantageous for a wide receiver like Andrew Hawkins.
Bunch formations have also gone a long way toward helping the Browns in the run game, as coverage is often tilted to where the offense has a numbers advantage. Rushing lanes along the backside are created as a result.
The Next Level
It is important to have skill position players that can wear many hats. Right now the Browns are able to control the game on the offensive side of the football when the run game is effective. What happens when they go up against a stifling defensive front that can stop the run without dedicating extra defenders? Drives won’t be nearly as long, and play action won’t be nearly as potent as it has been in previous weeks.
The Browns’ offense is two players away from achieving consistent offensive continuity. If the Browns are able to bring in players in the mold of Charles Clay (H-back), and Percy Harvin (wingback), it would be nearly impossible for defenses to dictate to them; particularly with the talented they’ve already assembled along the offensive line.
More stories you might like