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Breakdown of (in) the Browns Offense

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With the Browns on the bye week after a 1-4 start, this marks a good time to review how our offensive unit has performed so far. Although there have been some bright spots, there have also been just as many, if not more, negative spots. Before we get to the positions, let's take a look at some key stats regarding the Browns thus far:

Total Offense: 261.2 yards average, which ranks 31st in the league.
Rushing Offensive: 75 yards average, which ranks 30th in the league.
Receiving Offense: 186.2 yards average, which ranks 23rd in the league.
First Down Ratio: We have recorded 87 first downs so far. 48 of them have been through the air, 27 of them on the ground, and 12 of them via penalty.
Third Down Conversions: The Browns have converted on 23 of 65 third downs, for a 35.4% conversion rate.

Taking a look at those stats, it's clear that we've been forced to throw the football more often than we anticipated. If you are a good running team in the league, there's no way your total offense would be ranked 31st in the league. Surprisingly, our third down conversion rate has not been bad.

1) Quarterbacks:

We entered the season with Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, and Ken Dorsey as our three quarterbacks. We took a risk by not having a veteran backup, but at this point, neither of our backups have had to take a single snap. There comes as somewhat of a surprise, since Frye has been on his backside often due to our porous offensive line. Here's what Frye has done this season:

Charlie Frye: 105-of-168 for 1039 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He's been sacked 16 times through five games, an average of taking 3.2 sacks a game. He has fumbled three times, losing all three of them. His quarterback rating is 67.5.

Frye has had a rough start to the season in terms of the amount of interceptions he's thrown, but at least three of those were not his fault, as our receivers simply dropped the ball. Other interceptions came from desperation, but two of them against the Oakland Raiders were absolutely on him. Surprisingly, that's the only game we were able to win. The positive signs we've seen from Frye - his deep ball throws in particular - has shown me that he should remain our quarterback for next season as well. Most of Frye's downfall has been as a result of some horrid play of the offensive line, which includes the lack of a running game. When a quarterback has to be worried about getting hit every time, as well as the running game not working, there is too much weight being put on his shoulders.

If Frye needs to make one correction in the next few games, it's that he needs to learn to throw the football away at times when we have the lead late in the game. Twice, when we were winning with about four minutes to go in the game, Frye has been picked off. We won one of them still, but we fell to defeat in the other game. Grade: C+. Frye has his ups and downs, which equates to an average season so far. At least he's playing better than Ben Roethlisberger.

2) Running Backs:

With a 1,000 yard rusher returning and Jerome Harrison as our new change-of-pace back, this unit had high hopes entering the season. Some were upset to see Lee Suggs sent away, and maybe even a few William Green fans were upset that he was gone, but the coaching staff clearly wanted to end our ties with them and go with Jason Wright instead. So, how has our ground game been so far?

Reuben Droughns: 68 carries for 224 yards, a 3.3 average, with 1 touchdown and 1 fumble. 8 catches for 57 yards.

Jason Wright: 18 carries for 39 yards, a 2.2 average.

Jerome Harrison: 10 carries for 26 yards, a 2.6 average. 8 catches for 41 yards.

Our ground game has been a non-factor except for the game against Oakland, which doesn't say much. Don't make an excuse that we're struggling because we've had to face tough defenses like the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers. That's supposed to be the purpose of a good running game: you beat a good run defense. Droughns has been battling a shoulder injury so far, and Wright has been less than stellar as a backup. Everyone had high hopes for Harrison in the preseason, and some people even mentioned "rookie of the year". Instead, he hasn't even had a chance to make a name for himself after limited playing time. We're not giving him the ball at opportune times, and when he's in the game, it's too predictable that we're going to throw the ball to him. He's shown some positive signs on screen plays, but also seems to overrun his blockers due to how poor our line is. Grade: D-. The reason we didn't get an "F" is because there is not a controversy with who our running back should be. Droughns is still our identity, but we can't established success when he's banged up and our offensive line blocks like they're confused on every play.

3) Receivers:

The receiver position has been our bright spot so far. Before the preseason, we still thought that Braylon Edwards wouldn't return until Week 7, which happens to be next week. Instead, he's started every game this season, and has looked good overall. Kellen Winslow has been better than billed and has not suffered any setbacks due to his injuries the past two seasons. Let's take a look at the stats for our receivers so far...

Braylon Edwards: 20 catches for 351 yards, 1 touchdown.

Dennis Northcutt: 13 catches for 108 yards.

Joe Jurevicius: 6 catches for 50 yards, 1 touchdown.

Kellen Winslow: 30 catches for 283 yards, 2 touchdowns.

Steve Heiden: 8 catches, 65 yards.

It's unfortunate that Jurevicius suffered an injury to his ribs so early, which prevented our offense from being at full strength. Unfortunately, since he's returned, he has not been utilized properly. He needs to be on the field almost every play of the game, because if Frye is on the run and needs someone to come back and catch the football with sure hands, he's the guy. Instead, we've seen Northcutt, and even Edwards, drop the ball near the sideline on plays they should've had. Edwards and Northcutt have also had two turnovers that have cost us a chance at winning games after they resulted in interceptions. Also, where is Travis Wilson? Is he that bad that he doesn't deserve a shot at playing, even when Jurevicius was out for a few weeks? It has to be painful to see Marques Colston, a seventh-rounder on the Saints, playing like the rookie of the year, while Wilson, a third-rounder, hasn't even seen the field yet.

The tight ends have been great so far for the most part, but still aren't being utilized enough in our offense. Every time Winslow gets the ball, he hangs on and muscles out several extra yards. Every time Heiden gets the ball, he's pretty open, and stretches out to get some extra yards. Where is the philosophy of throwing it to Winslow so often, and then when he gets double covered, throwing it to the wide open Heiden? Blame our brilliant offensive coordinator. Grade: B-. Costly drops and poor playcalling prevented this group from earning a B+ or even an A-. Winslow and Edwards have made some tremendous plays, and Jurevicius' hands are gold. With proper utilization, this unit has shown enough to give us plenty of hope for the rest of the season as well as the next several years.

4) Offensive Line:

Ugh...I regretted getting to this part. I don't really know what to talk about, except for the fact of how bad we've been. Our veteran tackle, Ryan Tucker, isn't playing that well, possibly due to his knee surgery earlier this year. Hank Fraley has been average at the center position, salvaging what could've been a disaster. Kevin Shaffer is getting beat too often, Joe Andruzzi is not playing like he did with the Patriots, and Cosey Coleman seems to be doing a fair job in my book. Should we put our backups in? The only backup I'd like to give a shot is rookie Isaac Sowells, because I haven't had a chance to look at him. You never know; even one change to the line could fix a small void that helps everyone out.

Also, if we keep getting beat on the edge by someone like Julius Peppers, how many times will it take for him to drill Frye before we finally learn to stick someone in the game as an extra blocker? If we're not going to use Heiden or Dinkins anyway, they might as well put an extra offensive lineman in there. And please, do not have Winslow as a blocker anymore. If a defense is going to blitz from where Winslow was coming from, Frye should be able to pitch it to him quickly for a first down. Grade: D+ We had worries before the year that this unit would be a disaster, and that's been accurate for the most part. The only reason they did not get an F is because we've been outstanding in our lack of penalties.

5) Conclusion:

The development of Edwards and Winslow has saved our offense from becoming an embarrassment. Frye can be included in that as well, as he has made some nice plays for what he's been giving. You have to have a feeling that a lot of our problems come down to playcalling, and it's not just because we're venting. The Browns have addressed the fact vaguely, and even Winslow has made several comments regarding the situation. Here are a couple of changes that should be made, in my opinion, when we face the Denver Broncos:

  • Joe Jurevicius needs to be starting opposite of Edwards, and should be on the field almost every play.
  • Isaac Sowells needs to fill in for someone on the offensive line as a starter, or at least rotate with someone.
  • Lennie Friedman needs to start ahead of Joseph Andruzzi for one game, just to see the type of stability he brings. Remember, last year, a guy like Mike Pucillo didn't do too bad when he was inserted into the lineup.
  • Kellen Winslow needs to be on the field for every third down conversion attempt. The only exception would be on third-and-one sometimes, assuming we're having success in the running game.
  • Terrelle Smith is a blocker, and a blocker only. Do not throw it to him in the flat ever again.
  • Lawrence Vickers needs to receive some handoffs, so when he's in the game, he actually represents a threat. The same goes for Jerome Harrison.
  • Travis Wilson looked good in the preseason for the few plays he was in for. He needs to see the field, unless he's badly injured or something.
  • Joshua Cribbs needs to throw the ball at least once every three games. The only thing I can think of that we're waiting for is to save a play involving him for the Pittsburgh Steelers. If that's the case, it better work to perfection.
  • Hand the Duties Off: Let someone besides Maurice Carthon make the play calls. We're tired of draw plays on first-and-twenty, or trying to outsmart defenses with pitch plays. We are not good enough to outsmart teams with basic plays like these: we just need to give the balls to our playmakers already.
If you have any comments regarding our offense, please share them here. My defensive review will be up either tomorrow or on Sunday, with the special teams report coming after that. I'll tell you right now: the special teams report will be nothing but positive.