In today's edition of "The Sunday Five," we take a look at some statistical rankings for the Cleveland Browns' offense and defense, some peculiar stats when it comes to rushing plays behind left tackle, and why there could be three big changes on the inactives list this week for the Browns.
Team rankings in specific statistical categories don't always tell the story, but sometimes it is interesting to look at them nonetheless. First, let's see where the Browns stand offensively heading into Week 5. Cleveland ranks 25th in the league on offense, an improvement from a year ago. While the yardage is improving thanks to Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson, there are a few things the Browns have been really poor with. The first is third-down conversions, where they rank 28th in the league at a 27.28% conversion rate. They are 31st in the league when it comes to scoring touchdowns after getting into the red zone at a 33.33% conversion rate (small sample size, though). On the bright side, when it comes to sacks taken per pass attempt, the Browns rank 12th in the league (5.39% of attempts).
I have harped on the Browns' lack of success at scoring points in the first quarter of games. They have been pretty consistent when it comes to the other three quarters, both on offense and defense. Here is the breakdown:
1st Quarter: Browns have been outscored 21-6
2nd Quarter: Browns have been outscored 29-21
3rd Quarter: Browns have been outscored 24-20
4th Quarter: Browns have outscored teams 26-24
We have yet to see how the Browns' defense can respond when they are given an early lead. Granted, good teams should be able to come back at any given point during a game, but when you've been a losing team, a good first quarter performance sets the tone for the rest of the game.
Here is something interesting when looking at the Browns' rushing offense over the past five years when they run behind the left tackle position:
2007: 69 rushes, average 6.12 yards per carry (3rd in NFL)
2008: 50 rushes, average 5.02 yards per carry (6th in NFL)
2009: 64 rushes, average 3.41 yards per carry (29th in NFL)
2010: 50 rushes, average 5.24 yards per carry (6th in NFL)
2011: 69 rushes, average 6.12 yards per carry (3rd in NFL)
What about this year? The Browns have had 13 plays behind the left tackle, meaning they are on pace to have 52 rushing attempts over the course of a 16-game season. The concern? The Browns rank 30th in this area, averaging only...1.23 yards per attempt. Ouch. I don't know how these statistics are measured, but is this another sign that Joe Thomas is having some difficulty? The Browns are also struggling on runs up the middle, where they are only averaging 2.29 yards per run. The proportion of runs they are doing up the middle (7 attempts) is also way down from a season ago.
Across the board, the Browns rank pretty average statistically. They are 20th in the league at defending the run, giving up 117.3 yards per game. If that number held up, and that is a big "if" considering how teams have been more pass happy and we're only four games into the season, it would be the best finish for the Browns' run defense since the 1995 season (when researching year-by-year, I just had a feeling that I would finally find my answer when going to the era before the move). The Browns are netting interceptions (ranked 9th) and are 10th in the league when it comes to sacks per pass attempt (once every 7.74% attempts). They are 13th in the league on third downs, holding teams to a 35% conversion rate. All of this has come [mostly] without the likes of Joe Haden, Phil Taylor, Chris Gocong, and James-Michael Johnson.
Sunday's inactive list against the Giants is going to look a little different than usual for Browns fans. For those who don't know, Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin were officially downgraded to out for Sunday's game. Here are the seven players I am predicting to be inactive: QB Thaddeus Lewis, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, WR Travis Benjamin, TE Alex Smith, OL Ryan Miller, LB Tank Carder and S Tashaun Gipson. The only one I'm not confident in is Carder, who has not played on defense but has seen action in three of four games on special teams.
If this inactive list comes true, there are three big changes to point out. First, OLB James-Michael Johnson would be making his season debut (hence why I think he will swap places with Carder on this list). Second, it would mean that RB Brandon Jackson would be active for the first time since Week 1. I think that it fitting. Jackson has good hands, and with the Browns down two receivers, they could use a combination of Jackson or Chris Ogbonnaya as a fifth receiver on third downs if they need to. Lastly, S Eric Hagg is expected to suit up after going from starter to inactive the past two weeks. Gipson is already out, and the other safeties are a little banged up.