Offensively, the Browns enter the game 13th in the NFL in total yards. However, most of their production comes through the air with chunk passing plays. This leads to flashes of dramatic increases in productivity, but extreme inconsistency.
They key for the Browns’ offense this season has been balance. This is something they have failed to achieve, as they rush for only an average of 114 yards per game, running the ball less than 30 percent of their plays.
This doesn’t bode well for Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson this week, as they are opposed by the NFL’s ninth-ranked rushing defense. With no clear standout, the Cowboys excel in closing the gaps and effectively limiting opposing running backs. For an offense whose rushing attack has been virtually nonexistent in recent weeks, a defense like Dallas presents a challenge which the Browns may once again elect to avoid altogether.
Hue Jackson shouldn’t though, as failing to balance out an offense will never work for an entire game. They must be persistent in running the ball, and the running backs must take what is given to them. The Cowboys are not very aggressive on defense, so it may merely be a matter of taking the two or three yards on the ground to keep the defense honest.
Most importantly, Crowell and Johnson cannot go backwards. Negative plays on the ground have been detrimental to the Browns the past three weeks against Tennessee, Cincinnati and New York. Even if it is one or two yards, running the ball on first down, lowering the shoulder and putting Cody Kessler in a position where he can throw the ball in manageable situations is Cleveland’s best shot.