Cleveland Browns: Creativity is key to team’s success

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

With what seems like an insurmountable task of turning it around in 2017 facing the Cleveland Browns, creatively maximizing their players’ abilities is their key to success.

Whether it’s lining up Terrelle Pryor at quarterback or trying 15 different kick returners, the Cleveland Browns were no strangers to experimentation in 2016. While last year was a disastrous season, it was rarely boring for fans.

Since little has changed offensively for Cleveland, there’s no reason to anticipate anything different as far as experiments go this season. One example, according to Mary Kay Cabot at, has head coach Hue Jackson considering using running back Duke Johnson as the top slot receiver.

Desperation? Possibly. Or, it could be considered creativity. Johnson did have more receiving yards last season than rushing yards. Not to mention that he struggled with other essential tasks a running back is faced with, such as pass protection. It’s no surprise that Johnson’s 5-foot-9 and 210-pound frame isn’t enough against some of the league’s elite pass rushers.

With slot receiver Andrew Hawkins leaving for the New England Patriots, what else are the Browns supposed to do?

This isn’t to suggest a complete position transformation for Johnson, but it does promote a strategy the Browns would be wise to incorporate.

Rather than running an offense conventionally with each player sticking to what their position normally does, why not use the skills these players have, even if it means running unconventional plays and formations? Johnson is just one example.

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Reverses to rookie receiver Corey Coleman were successful at times last season. Even designed quarterback draws from Kevin Hogan caught the Cincinnati Bengals off-guard and sparked Cleveland’s offense. Nobody will remember these creative plays when run during a 1-15 season, but they are worth mentioning. Unfortunately, the Browns didn’t go back to them often enough when given the opportunity.

Of course, balance is everything. If a team goes over the top with offensive creativity, there can be  devastating consequences. However, Cleveland is far from becoming a radically non-traditional offense, one that fails miserably and becomes the butt of all jokes for doing so. On the contrary, they are too traditional, which doesn’t work since they aren’t as talented as everyone else.

When a team like the Browns are inferior to almost every other NFL team, it makes it difficult to  consistently beat better teams at their own game. That is exactly why the Browns have two choices. Get better, or get creative.

Ideally, they’d get better. And they are. But in the meantime, noticeable improvement won’t happen unless the Browns maximize the potential of some of their players by getting creative with them.

Johnson may be a running back, but if he had 514 receiving yards and 358 rushing yards last season; why not put him in the slot if there’s a need? The worst that can happen is that it won’t work. Little harm done, considering that changing nothing won’t work either.

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Resourcefulness like this is what Cleveland’s hopes of winning games this season rests on. It may be unconventional, but it’s exactly what the Browns should spend training camp doing. Experiment, find the right combination of talent on both sides of the ball, and put it all together.

Most importantly, don’t shy away from thinking outside the box.