The Cleveland Browns' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday didn’t just show that they still have a ways to go before being considered a playoff team. It also highlighted the front office’s next rebuild project: the offense.
At one point, the Browns trailed 31-13 and had allowed just 103 total yards of offense and three first downs. The defense is ready to compete, but the offense and special teams failed them.
When CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi spent the offseason retooling the defense, many questioned their moves. Why would they focus on a side of the ball that seemed to be much closer to being relevant than the offense?
The answer is in the results.
The Browns have a legitimate top-five defense in the NFL after adding outside linebackers Barkevious Mingo, Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves and defensive linemen Desmond Bryant and Armonty Bryant.
The front office identified the defense’s weaknesses, added the pieces needed and got instant results.
Next offseason, it will be the offense’s turn.
The fact of the matter is that quarterback Jason Campbell is not good enough to help the Browns take the next step. That level of quarterback is not on the roster. They also do not have a running back who can carry a workload for an entire year, and the line is not good enough at run blocking.
The Browns rushed for 102 yards against Cincinnati, but 63 of them came in the first quarter. In the final three quarters of the game, the Browns had 40 rushing yards on 13 attempts. That is a measly three yards per carry.
The argument could be made that they had to abandon the run because the Bengals scored 31 unanswered points in the second quarter. Fine, then let's look at Jason Campbell.
Campbell threw the ball 56 times for 248 yards. If you take away his 74-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Gordon, he averaged just 3.2 yards per passing attempt. That is horrendous.
While the deficiencies in the passing game were a combination of poor blocking, dropped passes and many other things, Campbell still checked down far too often and did not challenge the edges of the Bengals’ secondary.
Twenty-seven of his 56 passes were thrown to the running backs or tight ends. When 48 percent of your throws are checkdowns to a safety valve, you probably are not moving the football very well.
The other glaring statistic that screams “improve the talent” is third-down conversion percentage. Coming into the game against the Bengals, the Browns were tied for 22nd in the NFL with 46 percent of their third downs converted. On Sunday they converted just 4-of-18, or 22 percent of their attempts.
The reason these results are so poor is not coaching; offensive coordinator Norv Turner and head coach Rob Chudzinski are two of the brighter offensive minds in the NFL. The reason the results are so poor is a lack of talent.
The Browns do have some pieces. Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron have shown they have elite playmaking ability. Left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack are obviously cornerstones of the offensive line.
Outside of those four players, there really is not much else.
The Browns can draft their quarterback this upcoming offseason. They can add running backs, a wide receiver, linemen and anything else they need with their plethora of draft picks or their $25 million in salary cap space.
They can do it. They need to do it. Because right now, the offense is the weak link that will probably keep the Browns out of the playoffs.