The Browns are eight games into the 2014 NFL season and find themselves in unfamiliar territory. For the first time since 2007, they are not in last place in the AFC North. With a 5-3 record, they currently are in 3rd place in the division and are only ½ game behind the division leaders, the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
However . . . clack, clack, clack
The Browns’ pass offense is dependent upon the play action pass. In order for play action to work, one has to be able to run the football. In weeks 1 through 6, the Browns averaged 146.4 rushing yards per game (4.4 yards per carry). In weeks 7 through 9, that average dropped to 52.7 rushing yards per game (1.9 yards per carry). Add in the fact that in the five games played in weeks 1 through 6, the Browns gave up only 7 sacks for a total of 47 yards. In only the three games played since, they have surrendered the same number of sacks for 46 yards. These two items are telling to me just how significant the loss of Alex Mack was to this offensive line. So far, the various combinations of John Greco, Paul McQuistan, Nick McDonald and Vinston Painter haven’t come close to being even somewhat successful.
The quarterback play of Brian Hoyer so far has been . . . average. His best games were all in the first six weeks, his worst in the last three weeks. Overall for the season, Brian is 146 for 252 (57.9%) with 10 TD’s and 4 Interceptions. Of those 4 interceptions, 3 of them came in the past three weeks.
Defensively, the Browns have tended to give up yards on the ground and through the air but haven’t given up a lot of points. The rush defense is currently ranked at #29 and the pass defense is ranked at #13. One bright spot is Free Safety Tashaun Gibson. He currently leads the NFL with 6 interceptions (158 return yards and 1 TD). Paul Kruger leads the team with 6 sacks and Donte Whitner leads the team with 41 tackles.
One also has to look at who the Browns have played so far. Outside of their three AFC North division games, the Browns have not played a single team with a winning record. The combined record of all opponents thus far is 25-43 (0.368) and more than half of those 25 wins (17) belong to Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Putting this into perspective, the 0.368 Opponents Winning percentage ranks dead last in the NFL. The Browns next eight opponents have a winning percentage of 0.533 so saying it get harder from here on out is an understatement.