As it stands entering week 3, the Browns have scored 16 points en route to an 0-2 start. With starting QB Brandon Weeden being injured, as well as being unable to show any improvement in his sophomore year, the Browns have turned to third string QB Brian Hoyer, who may very well remain the starter the rest of the season.
The offense has been terrible, which has prompted the coaching staff to demote possibly the worst WR in the NFL, Greg Little. Also, the perceived strength of the team, the offensive line, has performed to shockingly bad levels. They’ve allowed 51 QB hurries through 2 games. Innovative Pro Football Focus reviewers have the Browns rated as an NFL worst pass block rating of -18.1. Essentially, if “0” is average, the Browns are terrible. Their run blocking? A -4.7, which is close to league average.
So, to say the least, the outlook is bleak. The perceived star, RB Trent Richardson, is ranked 16th in the NFL by PFF, below the likes of Joique Bell, Knowshon Moreno, James Starks, Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead. Richardson averages 3.6 yards a carry, which is terrible. Yes, the line and QB has been poor, but this new regime is blowing the offense up, so why keep a player that’s not helping you succeed? Running backs are not the key to success, so if a team offers you a get-out-of-jail free card with a mid- first round pick, why not shed his top 3 draft slotted salary and nab his replacement in the middle rounds of the next draft?
The Truth on Richardson
Trent came out of Alabama as a star running back, benefitting from a tremendous offensive line and huge running lanes to dash through. This hasn’t translated to NFL success, however, because Richardson doesn’t have breakaway speed (his career long rush is 32 yards), or have solid field vision (pictures below). In fact, he only has 2 rushes of 20 yards or more in 18 career games. Now, in a previous column, I showed how Richardson is a below average pass blocker. To back this up, I checked PFF grades. Through two games, he’s tied for the worst pass blocker in the NFL, but he has the 4th most snaps in the league at the position. So if he’s averaging less than 4 yards a carry, and is a bad pass blocker, what’s his value to an 0-2 team?
Here, I’ll illustrate all of Richardson’s plays where he shows poor vision, all from this season.
Play 1: Richardson follows the red line, where the Dolphins have clearly “set the edge” on him by keeping him away from the sideline. He runs up O’Neil Cousins’ butt instead of cutting inside for a much bigger gain.
Play 2: Richardson cuts right into Cameron Wake for no gain, as opposed to just running to the hip of Schwartz and bounce it either between the hole inside or outside of the TE. Another major missed chunk of yards.
Here, Richardson cuts back toward Greco (#77) instead of doing a “HB Sprint” off of the TE.
Same ole story, where Richardson cuts back into the heart of the defense, where Solilai has already beaten his man. He had a big hole from O’Neil Cousins.
Entering the 2014 draft, the Browns will already have an excellent defense that needs some depth in the front 7, and likely a starting CB and ILB. On offense, expect major turnover. QB Brandon Weeden could be released. WR Greg Little won’t be retained. WR Josh Gordon is one failed drug test away from being suspended a year, and could be shopped. RT Mitchell Schwartz looks more like a guard, or at least needs help from a RB who can chip speed rushers. Either way, one more guard is needed. The front office has a tough decision on C Alex Mack, who is above average but isn’t a top tier center.
Now, with 2 first round picks, a second, 2 thirds and fourths, the Browns can fill these holes and add depth. They’ll start with the QB by possibly drafting one of these guys: Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota or Brett Hundley. They need a franchise QB, and these players rank similarly to the Luck/Griffin/Wilson/Tannehill draft. All have sky high potential. That 2nd first round pick should go to an explosive WR, preferably Rutgers WR Brandon Coleman, Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief or Vandy WR Jordan Matthews, among others.
In the 2nd, I’d grab Richardson’s replacement, either Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon or Washington’s Bishop Sankey. They are complete backs that would complement Norv Turner and Coach Chud’s offense in a better fashion than Richardson.
You see, this front office and coaching staff have a vision, and they have the draft picks and cap space to build this team the right way. Try to have faith, Browns fans. Losing this season was inevitable, but the payoff could be tremendous.