A Cleveland Browns podcast

Cleveland Browns lack basic components of a run game

The Cleveland Browns lack the basic components of a run game. There is currently no viable starting running back, and both offensive tackles grade out as poor run blockers. Of course, the Browns first-string superstar running back, Nick Chubb is not available, and we all hope and pray for him to recover fully. He is not a factor for the 2023 Browns, unfortunately. No wonder! The Browns did not bother to populate the running back room behind Chubb this off-season, letting Kareem Hunt go when it was clear he had lost a step. Ditto D’Ernest Johnson. Jerome Ford did well as a kick returner in 2022, but he only had 12 total yards from scrimmage (TYFS) last season. Never has so few yards spawned such optimism among a fan base. So far he has not shown that he can replace Hunt, who averaged 712 TYFS during his first four years in Cleveland. Although Hunt has re-signed with the team, it was clear that he had lost a step last season as he gained only 3.80 yards per carry, and only 4.77 yards per target as a receiver. These numbers are far below his career averages of 4.48 yards per carry and 6.85 yards per target. The 2023 version of Hunt is a year older and is unlikely to replace the Hunt of 2019-2021.

This season, it’s still early, but Ford is eking out only 3.72 yards per carry, and Hunt sputtering at 2.50 yards per carry. Elijah Moore’s jet sweeps have resulted in a pathetic 0.43 yards per carry.

It may not be completely the fault of the running backs. Pro Football Focus grades both Jedrick Wills and Dawand Jones in the bottom five in terms of their run blocking. Former Tampa Bay Coach John McKay’s quote comes to mind when asked about his opinion of his team’s execution: “I’m for it!” Jones has the excuse that he is a rookie. Plus, you never know if offensive linemen are playing hurt or what the reason might be for their poor play. But for whatever reason, they are getting beat up right now, and the run game is non-existent. All the hype about the road graders that the Cleveland Browns have at offensive line so far is just that–hype.

If there is a running back among the current 53 players, perhaps it is Pierre Strong, Jr., who was added in a minor deal with the Patriots at the end of training camp. He knocked out a 40 yard run in the late going versus Baltimore, boosting his average to 5.92 yards per carry. He is the only back that has numbers, albeit in a very small sample size. Last season with the Patriots, he gained 100 yards in 10 carries, giving him a 10.0 yard per carry average. He also caught five balls in five targets. For his career, he has 177 rushing yards and a 7.70 yards per carry average and 42 receiving yards, for 6.00 yards per target. Hunt has always been very good in short yardage situations, but we may see Strong as the feature back sooner rather than later.

 

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