I have made some of these points in other threads, and this is very long, so I apologize ahead of time.
Even in todays pass first NFL, teams still need to run the ball. I believe that there are three main components to a successful run game. In order, they are;
- Offensive Line Play
- Quarterback Play
- Running Back
I know this sounds odd. How can the running back only be third on that list? My belief lies in the fact that if a team has an above average line that is able to control the LOS and decent quarterback play, most running backs would be successful. I think it is more important to have a talented QB than a talented RB, so I ranked it higher in importance. You could make a very effective case that those two should be switched, but it is my belief. Please understand that I am not saying that all running backs are plug and play. I would love to have Chris Johnson as our running back. I don't think he would be having the same season he is having in Tennessee, but I think he would still be explosive. I will touch on this further on Monday with another fanpost. I will link to it when I finish.
I have gone back to 1999. I compared the offensive line starters, the QB performance (I am using QB rating as a comparision stat. I don't think it is the greatest tool to use, but for this excersise, I think it is good enough), and finally looking at the leading rusher for each season. I am hoping to find out why the Browns have had such a hard time getting a ground game going.
Offensive line; (LT, LG, C, RG, RT)
Lomas Brown, Jim Payne, Dave Wohlabaugh, Scott Renberg, Orlando Brown
That is fugly.
Tim Couch finished with a 73.2. (I would kill for a Browns QB to put up a 73.2 this season. That is how far we have fallen. I am pining for the days of Tim Couch. Kill me now.)
Terry Kirby. He finished with 3.5 YPC for the season. Just for comparision sake, Jamal Lewis is getting 3.5 YPC this season. For his career, Kirby was never anything special. He got 100+ carries five times in his career. In those five seasons, he went over 3.8 YPC once. Yeah, that is not so hot.
I don't think that anyone really expected much out of the Browns this season. We had a horrible roster and little chance of getting anything going. I think Barry Sanders would have had a hard time running behindthat offensive line.
Roman Oben, Steve Zahursky, Wohlobaugh, Everett Lindsey, James Brown.
One returning starter from the previous season. Even from a crappy unit, that sort of turnover is never a really good thing.
Tim Couch had a 77.3 rating. He only played half the season because of injury. Doug Pederson filled in and had a 56.6 rating. Yeesh.
Prentice had 3.0 YPC for the season. He was the Browns 3rd round pick (63rd player overall) Prentice was a bad NFL back. He lasted in Cleveland for one season, his rookie season. After that he went to Minnesota for one season where he had 13 yards on 14 carries. You read that right. We wasted the 63rd choice on Travis Prentice. I just puked.
Travis Prentice was a bad NFL back. The fact that he never caught on elsewhere shows that. The fact that the Browns wasted a third round pick on him makes me want to cry. The Browns offensive line was another mostly patchwork line. If a team is starting from scratch every year in the run game, a run game is never going to develop.
Oben, Ross Verba, Wohlobaugh, Jeremy McKinney, Roger Chanione
60% new starters. In three seasons the Browns have had 13 starters on the offensive line. This is the third season since the return. The fact that the Browns didn't have a single buildling block on their offensive line is a huge red flag. Verba is the only player on this line that was maybe league average.
Tim Couch goes for 73.1 rating. Nothing special. Approaching bust status.
James Jackson was a rookie out of the "U". He averaged 2.8 YPC. But he was really, really talented. Butch Davis told me so. He was the 65th pick in the 2001 NFL draft. How many crap running backs did we draft in third rounds? It isn't hard to figure out why this team has stunk for so long when I look back at old drafts.
The revolving door at offensive line was still in motion for the Browns. The earliest draft choice that the Browns had used at this point on an offensive lineman was the final pick in the sixth round in 2000. In the 2001 draft Paul Zukaukas was taken in the 7th round. To expect a brand new franchise to be able to function without addressing a main need year in and year out was, IMO, THE reason that the Browns struggled so badly out of the gates.
Again 60% turnover. Granted, this group was far and away the best group, but still to have 3 new starters year in and year out kills the continuity of an offensive line.
Tim Couch had a 76.8 rating, Kelly Holcomb had a 92.9 rating four games. Maybe you guys heard of this, they had a QB controversy.
William Green, rookie out of BC, had a 3.7 YPC. I have a hard time judging William Green. He had talent, but he always seemed to be lacking a certain urgerncy when it came to hitting a hole. He always seemed to be waiting in the backfield. For his career he averaged 3.7 YPC for his career. Jamel White had 106 carries and posted a 4.4 YPC in 2001.
This team still couldn't run the ball when it mattered. In the playoff game, we ran the ball 28 times for 38 yards. I wanted William Green to be a good back, but with his off the field issues and crap offensive line, he never was more than a average at best RB.
Only Ryan Tucker returned to his position from the previous season. I couldn't make this stuff up. Faine was the first offensive lineman taken in the first two rounds since the Browns returned. It is a pattern at this point. Offensive lines cannot be made with band aids and retreads.
Kelly Holcomb played 8 games with a 74.6 rating and Couch played 8 games with a 77.6 rating.
William Green only played in 7 games. He averaged 80 YPG. He still was at 3.9 YPC which isn't awesome, but was the high water mark for his career. James Jackson, Lee Suggs, and Jamel White all started some games the rest of the season with only Suggs having an impact (5.2 YPC in only 50 carries).
William Green struggled again. The line was once again musical chairs. How can we expect a rushing game to get going when the most important aspect of the running game is in complete and total flux year in and year out?
Verba, Enoch DeMar, Faine, Kevin Garmon, Joaquin Gonzalez
Again. 60% turnover. By the way, DeMar was undrafted. Garmon and Gonzalez were both 7th rounders. Yes, sometimes you can find a great offensive lineman late or undrafted. These, aren't those kind of guys. Another patchwork group.
Jeff Garcia came in and put up a 76.7 rating. Outside of his stint in Detroit, it was the worst of his career.
Suggs and Green split carries with Suggs having an edge even though William Green started 12 games to Suggs 4. Suggs followed up his great finish of '03 with a pretty normal '04. Suggs had a 3.7 YPC while Green had a 3.6 YPC. I think both of these backs are comparable. For Suggs I think that injuries really robbed him of his explosion and a real shot at being special. He averaged 4.0 YPC for his career. Running behind a garabge OLine, Suggs and Green did pretty decent with this season.
80% turnover from the previous season. Shelton, Tucker and Faine are all prett decent offensive lineman. Coleman was on the backside of a decent career. This was the best offensive line since the Browns return. that isn't saying much.
Trent Dilfer put up a 76.9 rating. He was benched though in favor of rookie Charlie Frye, a grudge that he still arries with him today. Let it go Trent. You Trent freakin Dilfer. Frye came in went for a 72.8 rating. Not to bad for a rookie.
Finally! A 1,000 yard season. Ruben Droughns gave the Browns the best RB that he had since '99. If you don't remember, Droughns had a 1,200 yard season in '04 with the RB factory that is Denver. He was then traded to Cleveland for some crappy defensive lineman. Droughns came in and ran for 4.0 YPC a full half yard lower than his season before in Denver. 4.0 YPC is the second highest mark for a leading rusher for the Browns in the '99-'09 decade. Seriously.
The Browns rode Droughns. He ran hard and faced a lot of tough fronts with a rookie QB. He had a nice season. that being said, the Browns running attack still ranked 24th in the NFL. Reason was that the Browns only had Droughns. Our second leading carrier for the season was Trent Dilfer. Think about that. A QB that played in 11 games had the second most carries for the Browns at 20. A nice season for Droughns, but still a poor season for the Browns.
Once again the Browns have 60% new starters. Fraley was needed because LeCharles Bentley went down. It was a good move that was cut down by some horrid luck. It's Cleveland. We should have seen it coming.
Charlie Frye started 13 games and turned in a 72.2 rating. Derek Anderson came off the bench and helped out with a 63.1 rating in 3 starts.
Ruben Droughns was cooked. Maybe it was the previous seasons workload catching up or maybe his carriage finally turned back into a pumpkin, but he came up with a 3.4 YPC. Jason Wright was the back-up and he gave a 3.0 YPC. That is really, really, ugly.
The Browns had added some decent lineman. Fraley was good ceonsidering what most expected and Schaffer was playing out of position, but was a definite step up over Shelton. Still another season with continuous line make overs is not a good thing.
As good as it has been in Cleveland. Yes the line had 80% new starters at new positions, but the Browns added two pro bowlers. Anytime you add in two pro bowl level players it is a great move. Plus the Browns kept the three best lineman from the previous season.
Derek Anderson bloomed right before our eyes. He had a 82.5 QB rating and went to the Pro Bowl. By far the best season that the Browns have had out of a QB in a long, long time.
Jamal Lewis had the second highest YPC of his career in '07 with a 4.4 average. Jason Wright also chipped in with a 4.6 YPC on 60 carries. For the very first time since '99, the Browns had a rushing game that could win games.
The pass game led by Anderson, Edwards and Winslow was allowing the Browns to run the ball effectively behind a much improved O-Line. I still think that Jamal Lewis was very close to the end of his career, but the other two factors of the run game were working so well, even a RB on the backside of his career could go for great numbers. For the first time the Browns made a real effort to bolster the offensive line and it showed.
Thomas, Steinbach, Fraley, Rex Hadnot, Kevin Schaffer
For the first time in over 10 years the Browns didn't replace more than one starter from the previous season. Hadnot was brought in and was named the starter after Ryan Tucker had his off the field issues and drug suspension. Fraley fell off and went from decent to well below average. the left side was still one of the best in all the NFL.
Browns had 4 starting QBs this season. One stunk more than the other. Just for the sake of keeping everything uniform, here are your stats. Anderson, 66.5 rating. Quinn, 66.6 rating. Dorsey, 26.4 rating. Gradkowski 2.8 rating (that isn't a typo).
Jamal Lewis once again was the leading rusher for the Browns. He averaged 3.6 YPC. His backup Jerome Harrison averaged 7.2 (7.2!) on 34 carries. Once again we see a RB that didn't have much of a back-up to take some of the weight of Jamal's shoulders. We saw the same kind of thing happen to Droughns. How can a RB stay fresh when he is on the field at all times? Don't forget that Jamal Lewis was playing with some of the worst QB play that anyone had seen in quite sometime.
This is why I think that QB play is so very important to running the ball. Adrian Peterson couldn't have done much on this seasons team. The QB situation was a complete garbage fire. Plus Lewis was asked to do waaay to much. He was a 29 YO running back that was asked to carry an offense. Chester Taylor had 100 carries in 2008 behind Adrian Peterson. Bad situation with an aging RB. Asking for trouble.
Another season, another 3 starters. The Mack pick was the right move. As for the other two, I am not sure that they are any sort of step-up from the previous season.
Don't look if you're easily gagged. Quinn, 66.7 rating. Anderson, 36.2 rating. By the way the QB rating for an incompete pass is 39.6. In other words if DA does nothing but throw incomplete passes, he would have a better passing rating than he has now.
Jamal Lewis is getting 3.5 YPC. He sucks. We know this now.
This is the worst offense I have ever seen.
I had no idea the amount of turnover our offensive line has gone through over the years. 9 out of 10 seasons the Browns have added at least two new starters from the previous season. I have gone back and looked at successful running teams (Denver and Tennessee). These teams have used multiple draft picks on lineman, and have for the most part kept starters from season to season. This isn't a fluke. Quarterbacks have come and gone with those two teams, yet they always seem to be in the hunt. No matter if it is Steve McNair, Billy Volek, Kerry Collins, or Vince Young. Broncos rolled with Griese, Plummer and Cutler.
The faces could change on the O-Lines, but it was never a full swap out. these teams and front offices planned for these changes. Tennessee would lose Brad Hopkins as a LT. They planned ahead and drafted Michael Roos in the second round the previous season and let him get his feet wet as a RT as a rookie. In 2005 Justin Hartwig leaves as a FA, the Titans replace him with All-Pro Kevin Mawae. It is a plan that is laid out and followed.
The Browns have shown a pattern to always rip out guts and start new every season. We have the best LT in the game. Stienbach is a vey good guard who has struggled at times this season, but I believe is a player that can be counted on in the future. Mack is a stud that i think will get better in ever season. RG and RT will have to be addressed. I hope whoever is in charge of next seasons draft will use our second rounder on an offensive lineman.
What do you think has been the Browns major flaw in developing a run game?
What has been the biggest hold-up in the Browns developing a running attack?
The lack of a true, in prime, running back (95 votes)
The lack of any real passing threat (53 votes)
The lack of development of the Browns offensive line (228 votes)
Coaching scheme (67 votes)
Other (Please explain in comments) (9 votes)
452 total votes