There are still areas of concern for the Cleveland Browns offense, but their current ability to dial up big run plays isn’t one of them. Against the Indianapolis Colts in week 7, Kevin Stefanski and Co. were able to scheme up explosive runs by multiple different players.
Despite the injury to Nick Chubb and the issues with Deshaun Watson and the passing game, the Browns continue to be one of the top teams in the league when it comes to running the football. Both Kareem Hunt and Jerome Ford have been more than capable as runners since taking over for Chubb full-time in week 2.
Team Rushing Statistics
Yards Per Game: 147.5 (3rd in the NFL)
Attempts Per game: 33 (Tied for 2nd in the NFL)
Yards Per Carry: 4.5 (Tied for 7th in the NFL)
Touchdowns: 7 (10th in the NFL)
Rushing 1st Down %: 41.59% (4th in the NFL)
One of the day's most explosive and exciting plays was this variation of Split Zone that resulted in Jerome Ford’s 69-yard touchdown run in the 1st quarter.
The Split Zone play and Inside/Outside Zone plays are technically different, but the blocking scheme itself along the line of scrimmage is essentially the same. Where it differs is that there is a wing player who comes back across the formation after the snap to cut off a backside EDGE player.
Though the play itself appears to be just a basic form of Split Zone, Kevin Stefanski modified the way key personnel was used in it to create some pre-snap deception for the defense. Instead of using the tight end as the off-set or wing player, he used David Njoku (“Y”) on the LOS as the “point man” in the strong side bunch formation.
Traditionally, teams will do this when they plan on passing out of this formation because that bigger-bodied point man will usually be able to set a pick for the wing and/or “X” receiver, to use as a way to create separation on a flare or shallow crossing route. He also lined Donovan Peoples-Jones up as the wing player, adding another element of confusion. Very seldom will a team use a wide receiver as a lead blocker in this type of play.
Essentially, he was trying to trick the defense into thinking that it was going to be some sort of play-action pass play.
Another key element to the play was Elijah Moore (“X”) looping behind the play and taking a fake handoff from Watson. This not only pulled the LB/SS completely away from the play, but it also influenced the deep safety to hesitate as well.
Due to excellent blocking up front, as soon as Jerome Ford got the 2nd level of the defense, he was off to the races.
This play was an exciting way to start off what would end up being a high-scoring, “nail-biter” until the very end.