Browns need to solve their issues on third down

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns need to figure out an answer for their struggles on third down if they have any chance of getting the offense on track.

Cleveland Browns punter Britton Colquitt and punter Kevin Huber, his counterpart on the Cincinnati Bengals, may be quite busy on Sunday when the winless teams meet up at FirstEnergy Stadium.

That’s because the Browns and Bengals are among the league’s worst on third down.

Cleveland is ranked at No. 30 in the league as the Browns are converting just 27 percent of their third-down attempts; Cincinnati is just one spot ahead of them and are converting just 30 percent of their attempts.

In the case of the Browns, there are many culprits to blame, from ill-timed penalties, to dropped passes, sacks and struggles in the running game. Those occur repeatedly throughout the game, often on the same series, forcing the Browns into far too many third-and-long situations, which can be difficult for even a high-functioning offense to convert.

For an offense like the Browns, which is struggling to find its way through the season’s first three games, third-and-long is almost a signal to call in Colquitt and the punt unit.

So what is a team to do? Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer said the key is to simply treat third down like any other down and get the job done, according to

"“Obviously, it is an opportunity for a defense, depending upon the distance and what look they are going to give us, they could give us some of their exotics, but it is on us on offense to No. 1 get the call in fast, get it communicated fast so that we can get out there fast and see what the defense is giving us. From there, it is just about executing. You have to execute like every other down. It is about making sure that every guy out there is doing every part of his job, from his release if he is a receiver, from his technique if he is blocking and on my part, making sure that my mechanics are the same as they have always been and make sure that the ball is exactly where it needs to be.”"

Sounds simple enough, but like with everything related to the Browns, making the plan and executing the plan are two very different things.

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It is not all on the Browns, of course, as the opposing defense has a say in the end result of any play. The Browns offense could do everything right and if a defensive player makes a great play or simply wins the individual matchup, the defense is going to come out on top.

The one area that should be in the Browns control are the penalties. Only seven teams have been penalized more than the Browns on offense this season, and while some of the penalties have been highly suspect, to say the least, too many offensive series have hit an early snag due to a penalty on first or second down, all but killing the drive before it can get going.

With several new starters and key players on the offensive side of the ball, up to eight on any given play depending on the personnel group, the offense should become more efficient as the season goes along, wide receiver Kenny Britt told the team’s website:

"“We are young within the offense, and we are still learning. We are going to be scary in November and December, and that is when the good teams get great to tell you the truth.”"

There are still five games to be played until the calendar turns to November for the Browns, and while it is true the offense still needs time to find its rhythm, a slow crawl toward respectability is going to be difficult for a lot of people to take.

Next: Browns bottom out in Week 4 power rankings

The Browns should have some opportunities to right the ship in the coming weeks, starting Sunday with the Bengals, and the best way to do that is to find a way to keep Colquitt sitting comfortably on the sidelines.