Cleveland Browns: How to fix the running game in Week 3

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns’ running game has been the subject of much angst. It has gotten off to a slow start. But the Browns need to stay positive.

It is no mystery that the Cleveland Browns’ running game has not been where the media and fans would like it to be. Further, the running game seems to be something head coach Hue Jackson is committed to. But playing from behind has limited the number of carries running backs are getting per game.

There are different theories for how to manage a game when a team is winning or losing. If behind, one theory states you simply play the game as normal until the final quarter then make a push. The Browns have not taken this road.

Instead, Hue Jackson seems to be taking an alternative approach. Another theory states that when you are behind or coming into a game as an underdog, the play-calling needs to reflect that status. This could be from the very beginning of the game or start only when the team gets behind. This seems to be the approach the Browns are taking.

It is an intelligent approach because it gives your team a chance to be in the game. But it means the team is often playing a reactionary game and not getting into an offensive rhythm.

With the Browns heading into Week 3 as the favorite on the road, this would be a great time for Jackson to call the offense in a style commensurate with the favorite status.

The Browns should call a running game that accentuates the strengths of the personnel on the team. The two main running backs on the Browns, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, have completely different skill sets. Crowell has a skill set made for the power run scheme. Conversely, Johnson’s skill set it perfect for the zone run game.

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First, Crowell seems to need the definition of a place to run. He struggles when asked to read a zone scheme and find a hole. His balance, vision and patience are up to the level of an effective running back in a zone scheme.

This season, Crowell has been asked to run in a primarily zone based scheme and his weakness as a running back have contributed to a stifled running game.

Instead, Crowell is at his best when he lines up deep, can get a full head of steam going toward a defined hole.

When placed in a power run scheme, Crowell’s rare combination of speed and power come to the forefront. Most of Crow’s major runs and when his skill set is best at use is within the power scheme.

When running in the power scheme, Crowell has shown good vision toward the hole. He knows where to hit the hole. He shows good open field vision. He also knows when to elude and when to run over a defender.

To get the best out of Isaiah Crowell, Hue Jackson should employ a power run scheme. The drawback to this plan is that quarterback DeShone Kizer has not played a lot under center. His footwork may not be where it needs to be to make this an effective game plan.

Second, even though Duke Johnson played in a power run scheme at the University of Miami, his vision, balance and patience make him a great fit for the zone run scheme.

Duke is the quintessential hybrid player who can threaten defenses from running back, wide receiver and slot receiver. He greatest asset is his speed, vision and elusiveness. But he lacks the power and size to be an effective back in a power run scheme. He also had a history of injuries while playing in a power run scheme. He is best employed as a hybrid threat.

To get the most out of Johnson in the running game, Jackson should employ him in the zone running game. The zone game was designed for quicker more elusive players with great balance and vision. Duke fits the bill perfectly.

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So far, this season, Jackson has used Crowell in a zone based scheme and Johnson primarily as a receiving threat. To make the running game more effective, Jackson should call the running game in accordance with his players strengths. Utilize Crow more in power run schemes and Duke primarily in zone based schemes.