Cleveland Browns: What Will Team Identity Be in 2012?
Browns fans are hoping it's not the identity of three and outs on offense and not stopping the run on defense.
Head coach Pat Shurmur most likely will want to ease QB Brandon Weeden into the system by handing the ball off frequently to rookie running back Trent Richardson. It would make sense for Shurmur to have a 60/40 run/pass ratio this season with all the depth at running back, in addition to the youth and inexperience at receiver and quarterback.
According to ESPN.com, last season the Browns ran the ball about 42% of the time. That percentage should increase greatly this year, if Richardson stays healthy.
The vertical passing game will be a much-needed addition to the offense.
QB Weeden and his rocket arm will try to stretch the field way more often than QB Colt McCoy attempted last year. Weeden will also have vertical threats in rookie wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon.
Just the threat of going deep this year alone will help open up all the slants and crossing routes in the middle of the field that the Browns loved to run last season.
So expect a lot more big plays this year.
Defensively, the Browns last season were a bend-but-don't-break defense. For the most part, they kept the point total down for their opponent with the exception of a couple games. According to ESPN.com, they were the sixth-best defense in points allowed.
Yes, this was in part thanks to the weak offenses they faced last year, but they did keep the points down and gave the team a chance of winning in the fourth quarter. They had a shot late on in every AFC North division game except the December 4 game against the Ravens when they lost 24-10.
They were the third-best defense in the red zone allowing a touchdown 40.8% of the time (via TeamRankings.com)
It's tougher to see a scenario where the defense is as good as last year.
With CB Joe Haden most likely having to miss four games, LB Chris Gocong out for the year, LB Scott Fujita suspended for the first three games and DT Phil Taylor out for half the season, the Browns will have to force more turnovers on defense to compensate.
This season, the Browns will need their offense and special teams to help pick up the slack due to all the lost starters on defense.
Conclusion: Trent Richardson is the key to finally providing the team with a true identity. If he can run like a top 10 running back, then he will help out the passing game as well as the defense. The special teams are just as important and have to bounce back from last season when they directly cost the team wins.
The Browns have gone years without a true team identity because they can never do any one thing exceptional for years in a row.
That will have to change going forward.
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