Browns equipped to run the ball, but are reluctant to do so

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns may not be equipped to do much on offense, but they can run the ball when they make a commitment to do so.

The Cleveland Browns offense has been a sight to behold through the first 11 weeks of the 2017 NFL season.

Following Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns are 24th in the NFL in yards per game, 29th in yards per play, 32nd in third-down conversions and dead last in points per game at 15.1.

The Browns have only scored more than 20 points twice this season – Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts and Week 10 against the Detroit Lions. Add it all up and the Browns are on pace to score just 242 points this season, which would be the lowest output since 2011.

The only thing the Browns seem equipped to do on offense, at least in recent weeks, is run the ball.

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Cleveland had 201 rushing yards against the Lions, with 144 coming from running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, and 169 against the Bengals, with Crowell and Johnson combining for 130 yards. It might be a coincidence, but in both of those games the Browns were within a touchdown of the opposing team in the fourth quarter.

The Browns came into the season with a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer operating an offense that is “lacking in playmakers,” in case you had not heard. But the team also had an offensive line that the front office had invested heavily in, which made it seem like running the ball as much as possible would be a good plan of attack.

So, of course, the Browns enter Week 12 ranked fifth in the league in pass attempts (411) and just 22nd in rushing attempts (269). Some of that has to do with the score of the game, of course, but much of it also has to do with an offensive coordinator who can’t seem to figure out where the team’s true strengths lie on offense.

Of their five remaining games, the Browns only face one team that is currently ranked in the top 10 against the run, which comes in Week 17 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Although the Green Bay Packers are just outside the top 10 at No. 11.)

The Chicago Bears (No. 16), Baltimore Ravens (No. 23) and the Los Angeles Chargers (No. 32) should all present ample opportunity to put the ball in the hands of Crowell and Johnson and possibly give the Browns a chance at that elusive first win of the season.

With Jackson running the offense, however, Kizer will probably be icing down his shoulder from overuse come Sunday night.

While you ponder that, let’s take a run through the weekly power rankings.


"No. 32 (no change): As bad as the Browns have been, their rushing defense has been stellar. They’re allowing 3.3 yards per rush and 1.7 yards before contact per rush, both second best in the NFL. And no, it’s not because opposing teams kneel a lot. Take away kneel-downs and the Browns still rank second best in each. (Pittsburgh No. 4, Baltimore No. 16, Cincinnati No. 19)"

Pete Prisco at CBS Sports:

"No. 32 (no change): Will they win? Can they win? Does it matter if they win? Changes are coming. (Pittsburgh No. 3, Baltimore No. 12, Cincinnati No. 21)."

Frank Schwab at Yahoo Sports:

"No. 32 (no change): Josh Gordon is slated to return this week, and Hue Jackson said he’ll play a lot on Sunday. We’ll see how much Gordon can handle. His last game was Dec. 21, 2014. But it’s one of the more interesting stories to track over the remainder of the season. (Pittsburgh No. 3, Baltimore No. 17, Cincinnati No. 20)"

Eliott Harrison at

"No. 32 (no change): The Browns simply can’t find their way out of the jungle that is the fourth quarter, and couldn’t manage late in Cincinnati, either. It’s been swampier for Hue Jackson’s guys than where Luke Skywalker parked his ride in Empire. The Browns were down one score to the Bengals in the final stanza, before letting Joe Mixon glide past them on three meaty runs to put Cincy back up two scores. Gleaning positives from Cleveland’s weekly performances is getting tired, but promising signs are apparent from DeShone Kizer. Is he the future? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, the repeated losses are about much more than the quarterback. (Pittsburgh No. 4, Baltimore No. 15, Cincinnati No. 20)"

The Browns will be back in action on Sunday as they hit the road to face the Los Angeles Chargers.