The Cleveland Browns have started off this season a deceiving 3-4.
Their three wins have come against subpar teams including the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, and the Miami Dolphins. Those three teams combined are a miserable 2-20.
Granted, the Browns are under a new regime with rookie head coach Pat Shurmur at the helm. Not having an offensive coordinator has also put a lot of pressure on Shurmur week-in and week-out.
With a lockout-shortened, OTA-free offseason, plus a brand new offense, one should have seen the Browns’ offensive woes in 2011 coming.
An unimpressive Colt McCoy thus far has Browns fans itching for him to finally break out. Although McCoy has put up somewhat decent numbers on paper, he has looked dreadful during the games. He is averaging a minuscule 5.7 yds per attempt and checks down before he even has a decent look down field.
Not all of that is on McCoy though.
Other than Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, the Browns have gone through a laundry list of rotations on the O-Line. The right side of the line is weak, and combined with the right blitz package by the defense McCoy is pressured before he has a chance to hit his back foot.
The Browns have also caught the injury bug this year, and it has surfaced in one area in particular: the backfield.
Madden Cover star Peyton Hillis has not been 100% since Week 2 against the Colts when he scored the Browns’ only two rushing touchdowns of the season. Since then, he’s been bothered by a hamstring injury and the possible distraction of his contract negotiations with the Browns.
Because Hillis has been injured, the starting job was open to Montario Hardesty, who was impressive in Week 3 against Miami. Hardesty then injured his calf on a pass play again San Francisco.
The backfield now consists of Chris Ogbannaya and newly-signed Thomas Clayton.
I’m not going to tell you that if Hillis or Hardesty were healthy that the offense would put up 24 points per game, but it would take a lot more of the pressure off of McCoy to succeed.
One could make the excuse that the Browns’ struggles stem from not having enough time to come together during the offseason and learn the West Coast Offense that Shurmur and Mike Holmgren are trying to implement. Although this is a valid point, the same situation happened in San Francisco with new head coach Jim Harbaugh.
The 49ers are 6-1.
Another issue that does not favor towards McCoy is the lackluster bunch of receivers that he has the option to throw to. He does not have the deep threat that most teams have, or the 6’4 red-zone target that helps convert field goals into touchdowns. Greg Little has shown signs of improvement, catching the ball more often and leading the team in receiving, but there is still much improvement to be made throughout the entire offense.
The Browns may be an eyesore to watch offensively at the moment, but look for them to add a few more weapons in the offseason. Whether it be through free agency or the draft, they have the opportunities to put play-makers on the field for Colt McCoy. Additionally, the hiring of an offensive coordinator will help Shurmur immensely because it will take the pressure of and hopefully open up the playbook.
Browns fans can be very impatient, but give this offense a few years and a few more players and the most frustrating side of the ball for 2011 Browns should show some definite improvement moving forward.