Cleveland Browns: Rushing average hits a 50-year high
The Cleveland Browns may have struggled on offense at times in 2016, but the running game produced some results not seen in 50 years.
In spite of the offense’s inability to consistently score points, the weekly grumbling about the offensive line play and, you know, the 1-15 record that apparently should define everything, the Cleveland Browns have at least one verifiable bright spot to point to from the 2016 NFL season.
The running game was actually effective!
It’s not going too far out on a limb to say that the Browns finishing the year with the highest rush average in 50 years is a bit surprising.
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Leading the way were primary running backs Duke Johnson (4.9 yards per carry) and Isaiah Crowell (4.8 yards per carry and just missed out on a 1,000-yard season). But quarterbacks Robert Griffin III (6.1 yards per carry) and Kevin Hogan (13.1 yards per carry) did their part, as did George Atkinson III, who came out of nowhere to average 4.9 yards on his seven carries against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
By comparison, the 1966 team – in its first year following the retirement of Jim Brown – averaged 5.2 yards per carry behind Leroy Kelly (5.5 yards per carry and 1,141 rushing yards) and Ernie Green (5.2 and 790).
Not bad company to be in.
When you add in their receiving yards, Crowell and Johnson combined for 2,139 yards from scrimmage this season and eight touchdowns.
Which raises a couple of points:
- Head coach Hue Jackson came to Cleveland with a reputation as someone who can build a solid running attack and it looks like he delivered. So why didn’t they run the ball more? Some of it had to do with the team trailing in games, but running the ball seems like it would have been a better alternative than letting the quarterbacks throw it 567 times this season.
- Maybe the fact that the Browns gave up a league-high 66 sacks had more to do with the general incompetence of the quarterbacks than the offensive line?
- Given the production of Crowell and Johnson, it seems like a good idea for the Browns to work on a deal with Crowell – who is a restricted free agent – and keep the running back tandem together for the next few seasons. That would allow the team to focus on areas of the roster that are more critical in the upcoming draft and through free agency.
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Not much may have gone right for the Browns in 2016 – or at least the appearance was that not much went right – but judging from the numbers the run game looks like it can be a low-priority item in the off-season.
Now if they can just do something about the quarterback position.