The majority of Cleveland’s offensive struggles in 2016 have come from their inability to run the ball effectively. Coming in at 26th in the league, the Browns running offense has had its moments, but has lacked consistency.
Part of this problem is due to head coach Hue Jackson and his unwillingness to persist with the running game. In many ways, it is hard to blame him, because the air attack has often been the only way for the Browns to even attain positive yardage. But the team’s incompetence in this area also stems from a feeling that every run has to be a touchdown run.
Naturally, Duke Johnson is a shifty running back. Isaiah Crowell is a lot different, but has veered away from the powerful running which got him from Alabama State to the NFL. This is partially because of the offensive line, which gives the ball carriers little room to work. But it is also due to a false and desperate mentality that every play must be a spectacular one.
When taking the Browns’ typical game plan into account, this mindset could not be further from the truth. Cleveland is a pass-first offense, and a very capable one at that. The purpose of running the ball is to keep the defense honest and to move the sticks; nothing more.
This is why Johnson and Crowell must lower their expectations. Buffalo’s defensive front is stout, but they have surrendered the fifth most yards on the ground in 2016. Taking what the defense gives is a start to making passing downs manageable. And when passing downs are manageable, fans will truly get to find out whether or not their highly touted receivers are for real.