Oct 18, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Robert (27) stiff arms Denver Broncos cornerbackChris Harris
(25) during the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Regression Is Far From Progression
In the first game of the season, the Cleveland Browns suffered a loss to the New York Jets. As of two weeks ago, that defeat stood as the only game that the Browns weren’t capable of winning late. Then came Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, a 24-6 loss.
Far from a juggernaut, the Rams managed to manhandle the Brownies in all phases of the game. On defense, the Rams are ranked in the top-10, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Browns would struggle on offense, but against the Rams 32nd-ranked offense, one would assume the Browns could hold their own and be in the game at the end. Instead, the Browns biggest weaknesses continue to be exploited. The Browns have to figure out how to run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense.
After last season’s semi-breakout, the Browns had high expectations for undrafted running back Isaiah Crowell going into 2015. Paired with third-round draft pick Duke Johnson, GM Ray Farmer, head coach Mike Pettine, and offensive coordinator John DiFilippo thought they had a thunder-and-lighting type backfield. One back (Crowell) to pound the ball up the throats of teams with 15-20 carries, and another back (Johnson) to break big runs on the edges and be elusive in the pass game.
This past week, Crowell managed a lowly nine yards on eight carries (eight of those yards came on his first attempt), while Johnson managed 17 yards on six carries. Johnson also caught seven passes for 73 yards, so he was far from ineffective, but the rushing totals aren’t helping the Browns keep opponents honest. Newcomer Robert Turbin, the former backup to Marshawn Lynch in Seattle, got 30 yards on five carries Sunday, but he hasn’t done enough in his three games this season to prove he wants the job either.
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Going into this week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, McCown is listed as questionable with a nagging sore shoulder. Complied with other various minor injuries, it’s entirely possible that the Browns will look to Johnny Manziel to lead them this week. If the Browns are going to stop the QB carousel that’s been in place since 1999, they’re going to have to figure out how to run the ball, and protect their quarterbacks from injury.
The Browns have a Pro Bowl caliber player at almost every position along the offensive line and a first-round talent in Cameron Irving to back them up. It’s imperative that either Crowell, Johnson, or Turbin step up and seize a featured role if the Browns are going to turn this season around and keep Josh McCown healthy.
Next: Problems Stopping The Run