The lack of a quality running game will not be addressed until the off-season. The trading of Trent Richardson still has to play out for the Browns, but it left the team without a true number one running back who showed consistency and flashes of potential last year as a rookie. They need to replace Richardson with several young, strong backs. The Browns had a meager 55 yards total rushing against the Steelers.
Jason Campbell did not look great, and Brandon Weedon looked inconsistent against the Steelers. However, what you did see on several plays when Brandon Weedon looked deep for Josh Gordon you saw the offense the team wants to run. The NFL offense circa 2013 is a downfield passing game, ala Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The most improved quarterback in the league is Carolina’s Cam Newton, who has made the transition from a running quarterback to one who can throw the ball downfield. That is why I have said over and over it is not about Brian Hoyer or Jason Campbell in the Browns’ long-range plans. They are looking for someone with Brandon Weedon’s arm. How the Browns address this I am not sure. The best college prospect is still two drafts away, and might be spending the upcoming offseason fighting rape charges. Against the Steelers, Jason Campbell went 14 for 22 for 124 yards, while Weedon went 13/30 for 209 yards and one pick and one touchdown. Probably not too bad of a combined day considering no ground game.
Travis Benjamin’s injury has been a bigger blow to the Browns than anyone first thought. It took away the team’s only real speed receiver, his threat on gadget reverse plays, and, of course, his threat as a return man on kicks. In some ways he took over Josh Cribbs’ many roles on the team. Now those things are done by a committee of players and none of them scare the other teams during games.
Very good NFL quarterbacks take apart attacking defenses. What Ben Rothlisbergher did Sunday was typical. When the Browns attacked he knew what areas were vacated and hit a ‘hot’ receiver with a completion. That is why the most attacking of teams don’t do much attacking against the Mannings, Tom Brady, and Ben Rothlisberger.
Sooner or later an attacking defense has to be able to sit in its base defense and play football. But constantly rushing five, six, or seven men on play after play just leaves too much of the field open for good teams to take advantage of. The Browns have a good defense, but it can’t rely on its blitzing packages and stunts to win every game. In games like Sunday’s with the offense sputtering and the defense spending too much time on the field, the opponent’s offense has seen all you have to offer by halftime.
It was another winnable game for the Browns in a season of winnable games, even considering the Richardson trade, playing three quarterbacks, and only drafting two players. This is turning into the strangest of a series of strange seasons, another losing season that we will have to live with for another long winter and into next year.