Browns improving offense inspires optimism
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Believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns have a lot of reasons to be optimistic this season.
The team heads into the season with Robert Griffin III as their starting quarterback. Griffin is, when healthy, one of the better quarterbacks in the game. However he has been unable to stay healthy these past few seasons and, as a result, has been overlooked. Of course, Browns fans know all too well about potential busts at quarterback; the Jersey of Shame—a fan created jersey that lists every Browns starting quarterback since 1999—had 24 names and, with a tumultuous season could easily see numbers 25 and 26 added on if only the owner hadn’t retired it.
Griffin’s problem as a quarterback is when he is forced to go through his progressions. In his past seasons, his passer rating dropped from an incredible 99.9 to a mediocre 66.4 when he held the ball for more than two-and-a-half seconds. If the Browns can figure out a way to play to his strengths and develop a quick-hitting offense, Griffin will more than play out the value of his two-year, $15 million contract.
The running back situation in Cleveland is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Running back Duke Johnson Jr., who is returning for a second year in the NFL, had a remarkable rookie season and achieved the third-highest forced missed tackle percentage among all running backs. He also had the fifth-highest elusive rating in the league. If he progresses in his second year, Johnson could become a star.
Isaiah Crowell is a great complement in the backfield with Johnson. Crowell has limited vision and doesn’t break tackles often, but he hits the hole hard and would suit well as a third- or fourth-down back.
The wide receiver situation will be the X-factor for the Browns all season. Josh Gordon has had an encouraging preseason and, despite his required four game suspension to start the year, should be a huge contributor once he is back on the field. The team’s first-round draft pick, Corey Coleman, is set to play and will come out of the gates as one of the most explosive wide receivers in the game. Only time will tell if he will live up to his hype.
The Browns offense will at the very least look to improve from last year when they were 25th in league in yards and 30th in points per game. A strong receiving core, coupled with a healthy Griffin and solid running back play, will surely put them on the path to improving this season.