Teams stuffing the box
Another reason the Browns running game is suffering is due to opposing teams stuffing the box. Stuffing the box means the opponent has eight or more players lined up between the offensive tackles and less than five yards off the ball.
By putting eight or more players in the box, teams are looking to outnumber the offense at the point of attack. The logic is that if there are more players to defend the run than the offense can block, then the defense should be able to stop the run. It is simple math. Five or six people cannot block eight.
As a concept, the power run scheme tries to put more people at the point of attack than the defense in order to gain a numbers advantage in their favor. First, there is a double team at the point of attack. Second, a pulling a guard, tackle or both tries to kick out a defender opening a hole or sealing an edge depending on the scheme. A numbers advantage can also be gained by using a fullback, H-back or a crack back block by a big physical wide receiver like Terrelle Pryor.
Defenses have been stuffing the box to negate a numbers advantage brought on by the power run scheme. If there are more people to defend, the offense cannot double team, kick out or seal an edge.
How can offenses counter this? It is actually quite easy to counter a team stuffing the box. First, because stuffing the box is done (usually) by bringing a safety up, the easiest way is to throw the ball deep. The Browns did this their first offensive play from scrimmage when Cody Kessler hit Gary Barnidge for a long gain. Second, change the running scheme from power run to zone run.
The problem for the Browns in the zone running scheme have been detailed above. The zone run scheme effectively shifts the entire offense one direction, purposely leaving one or two players unblocked who mostly likely cannot make the play anyway. If the backside chaser becomes a factor in the run game, the offense can run a read-option to take advantage of it.
The zone scheme negates the advantages of an eight-man box by taking one or two defenders out of the play by the scheme itself. Adding an option wrinkle to the scheme, offenses can even remove any player they want from the defense. Any can be optioned at any time.
But to make such and offense effective, the Browns would need a player like Robert Griffin III and an offensive line that focuses on zone blocking. Kessler is not a read-option quarterback nor can the offensive line zone block.
Thus, beating the stuffed box with zone concepts failed miserably last week against the Titans.