While no one expected the Browns to be Super Bowl contenders at the beginning of the season, no one certainly expected them to run off a three game winning streak after losing their initial five games.
Add in the fact they were starting a rookie quarterback, running back who had knee surgery at the beginning of training camp, rookie offensive lineman, and wide receiver it was expected the team would struggle. However, the team has shown some promise and fight and in the process, Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson have made their way into the Cleveland Browns record books.
Brandon Weeden is top ten of the all time passing yards in a season for a Browns quarterback; and with two games remaining he only needs 507 more yards to surpass Derek Anderson, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar, and Paul McDonald to be in the top 5. A seemingly small number for a player who ranks 9th in the league for most pass attempts. So the opportunities will be there, the question will be is, will head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress do anything different that will assist him in achieving such a feat.
The Browns offense which is patterned after the west coast offense of the late 1980’s hasn’t showed much creativity and has grown to be quite mundane over Shumur’s 2 year tenure in Cleveland. With Weeden and Colt McCoy running the offense you’ve not seen a vertical attack that keeps defenses honest and allow the underneath routes to become more effective. Brandon Weeden has shown growth since the beginning of the season, however in the most recent 5-6 games he hasn’t shown much if any progress. He still locks on to receivers and doesn’t show the field vision of scanning from left to right deep to short as you would like your young quarterback to do. All of this doesn’t fall on Weeden, we should definitely look at the coaching staff and what they’re teaching Weeden and allowing him to do on the field. Optimistically, lets have faith that in these last two games the coaching staff will dig deeper in the playbook and be more inventive with their playoff hopes dashed.
During the last 9 games Trent Richardson has scored 8 touchdowns, 1 receiving and 7 rushing, and this past Sunday he joined the ranks of only 3 other running backs to run for 11 or more touchdowns in a season. Leroy Kelly (3), Jim Brown (5) and Peyton Hillis (1) are the other to achieve that feat. Good company to be along side 2 hall of famers in your rookie year. What will interesting to see is how Richardson plays when he’s 100%. In his time at Alabama he was very decisive when hitting the hole and not doing all the dancing in the backfield we’ve from him this year. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to give him the benefit of the doubt that when he’s healthy he’ll the hit the holes with more ferocity. Although, while we’re waiting for Richardson to get back in to form, the offense should use him like other successful running backs, like Marshall Faulk, Thurman Thomas, throw him the ball out of the backfield, line him up in the slot to get him the ball in the space to get him a favorable matchup against a linebacker. Notwithstanding, through all the injuries, his pass blocking has improved from the first quarter of the season. Which is a good sign, blocking for skill players can be the equivalent to a basketball player who just rebounds and doesn’t score. They won’t get much credit, but its crucial to teams success.
The Brown haven’t had a solid quarterback and running back combination since the days of Kosar, Mack and Byner. If these two guys can live up to 3/4’s of the hype they came into the league with the Browns shouldn’t be the bottom dwellers of the AFC North any longer. However, with another regime change looming, who’s knows if they’ll have a chance to grow together. Time will tell, but what will live on is their accomplishments as rookies.