Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Browns Struggles on Offense Will Continue

   During the first five games of the season, the Browns had fantastic play from their offensive line.  Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Kevin Mack were joined by stud rookie card Joel Bitonio, and John Greco came back from an injury riddled 2013 season.  Mitchell Schwartz also has played well.  I suspect that he was playing with some injuries last year and had a few bad games but for whatever reason he has played at a high level in 2014. 

    In addition, all three running backs were up over 4.0 yards per carry, and the receivers were doing well also.  QB Brian Hoyer was getting time to throw and the result was an overall high performing offense.  Browns fans were demanding a Peyton Manning type contract for Hoyer, and dreaming up trades for rookie backup Johnny Manziel.  

   My theory is that it really matters how good your fifth best lineman is, especially for pass coverage, because the defense is going to target the guy that they think is the weakest. Up to now, the Browns really didn't have a weakness at OL.  

   The loss of Alex Mack has thrown a glitch into the entire offense however.  Now John Greco is trying to learn a new position at center, while journeyman Paul McQuistan is trying to replace Greco at right guard.   McQuistan is giving his 100%, but the fact is that he got pasted by a good Jacksonville front last week, and he struggled in the preseason as well.   The result is a huge difference in both run blocking as well as quarterback protection.  

   Suddenly the running game has lost its effectiveness, and Hoyer is being pressured and no longer has time to throw.  Suddenly, Hoyer looks human instead of like Superman.   
     The Browns are scrambling to find a solution for the O-Line, and perhaps they will find a new center soon that will allow Greco to return to right guard.

     In any case, I believe that the Browns are in trouble.  Hoyer is a great quarterback when he is surrounded by talent, but without excellent pass protection, he is going to be much less effective.  I predict that there will be a few more sacks and more interceptions now that Mack is out for the year.   No doubt the fans will say that Hoyer is regressing, but that isn't really what is happening if you ask me. He just isn't as good without five Pro Bowl calibre linemen.  

      So is replacing Hoyer with Manziel going to fix the Browns problems? Maybe to some extent. Manziel might be better than Hoyer at coping with the pass rush and getting the ball downfield.  That might partially compensate for his lack of NFL experience.
Will the Browns' Problems be Solved by Johnny Manziel? Not really, but I think they should make the move soon anyway.  

Desmond Bryant leads all other Browns defensive linemen in sacks, with a total of one.  Every other lineman on the active roster has zero. 

  But the real problem with the Browns is not the offense at all.  The banged up Browns' defensive line is currently number 32 out of 32 teams versus the run.  Not very impressive. Plus they have not rushed their opponents' passers either.  So far only Desmond Bryant and Armonty Bryant have a sack (one each), and now Armonty is gone for the year.  So the Browns current DL personnel account for only one sack the entire year.  That is shocking.

     It would not surprise me if the Browns continue to struggle on Sunday against the currently winless Oakland Raiders.  If so, don't be astonished if Manziel gets some playing time in the second half.