It is so hard to figure out where the Browns’ offense is in their development. It is hard to figure out exactly what kind of development is or is not going on. Staring at Colt McCoy’s game video and at the box score can only yield so much. On one hand, the Browns have a new system being implemented by a new coach. They have a young core of players. Those facts give me pause. On the other hand, the Browns also have played a relatively weak schedule and some of those young guys have another year under their belts. Unless you are coming from a place where you have already concluded that Shurmur and McCoy stink, or McCoy and Shurmur just need more time and patience, it is really hard to figure out exactly how they are doing. When the conclusion is already drawn, you can fit numbers any way to help you prove it.
So let’s just assume what we all know about Shurmur and McCoy. The one thing that we should all be able to agree on that both of them are unproven in the NFL. From there, I thought I would look at a few people not named Shurmur or McCoy. We know that those two guys end up “coloring” every other offensive number we look at anyway, so even in not talking about them directly we are doing so indirectly. Anyway, here goes.
In 2010 Peyton Hillis, Ben Watson, Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs accounted for 67.2% of the Browns rushing and receiving yards for the season. Peyton Hillis accounted for 34.1% of the yardage by himself with his 1654 yards from scrimmage. Ben Watson represented almost 24% of the passing game and nearly 16% of the yards from scrimmage. MoMass was about 15% of the receiving yards and 10% of the total. Cribbs was 7.4% of the total. Peyton Hillis and Ben Watson played in 16 games each. MoMass and Cribbs played in 15 each. Hillis and Cribbs’ numbers probably should have been a bit lower as they were really banged up at times and didn’t really “play” as much as they were “available” to Eric Mangini and Brian Daboll.
To this point in 2011, those same four guys are accounting for 39.8% (down 27.4%) of the Browns’ rushing and receiving yards. Massaquoi has missed two games and Hillis has missed (a very loud) six. Cribbs and Watson have played in all 11 games. The biggest difference quite obviously is Peyton Hillis. Right now, Hillis is accounting for 10.2% of the Browns offense including nearly 26% of the rushing yards while missing six games. Hillis has been talked about plenty though.
The one we haven’t talked a lot about is Ben Watson. His production is down 5% of the total offense. He is averaging just over one catch fewer than he did per game. In 2010 he had 68 catches and right now he is on pace for 46 catches. Not sure what exactly is going on here. Watson was a security blanket for Colt McCoy last year.*** So, who knows if opposing defenses are clamping down on him more this season, if he’s nicked up, or if it’s the scheme change. I do know he was healthy enough to jump on Mohamed Massaquoi and earn a penalty for excessive celebration in the win against the Dolphins, but I digress.
So, what exactly is happening with the Browns’ offense? The Browns are relying on a whole host of newcomers. With the production of those core four from 2010 dropping 27.4% the Browns have relied on Greg Little, Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya. These three new guys (yes, Hardesty is technically still new) are accounting for 38% of the Browns’ yardage from scrimmage. Little has 15% of the total and 21.2% of the receiving yardage. Even with the drops, it isn’t such a bad amount of production for a second round rookie. Hardesty has 10.5% of the total and 22.9% of the rushing. Ogbonnaya has 12.5% of the total and 28.3% of the rushing. Bottom line is no matter what “weapons” the Browns had returning, one way or another they’ve been forced to rely heavily on new guys.
I won’t draw the conclusion for you because these things can fit into any number of conclusions. (Examples: Heckert did a bad job. Shurmur can’t scheme. Opposing defenses have game tape on Browns starters. Injuries have ruined the season. Browns needed training camp. Man, I miss Mangini.)
My conclusion is a combination of all of them. I think Colt McCoy and Pat Shurmur have struggled mightily at times this season. I think the injuries have hurt the team massively from Hillis and his distractions to concussion-like symptoms. None of this even mentions some of the missteps of the front office regarding Robiskie and Pashos among others. I am really interested to see how this team responds down the stretch with such a tough roster of games coming up. This upcoming stretch might tell us more about the team overall than all the first 11 games combined.
*** I thought I said I wasn’t going to talk about him!