In the 2010 offseason a lot of attention has been paid to the Cleveland Browns' passing game.
Who will the quarterback be?
Will Jake Delhomme rebound?
Is Colt McCoy the real deal?
Are the Browns going to acquire a veteran receiver?
Do they need one?
What everybody should be asking is, who will the primary ball carriers be, and what percentage of the offense will the running game account for? The Browns offense will be based primarily on their solid running game.
In 2009 the Cleveland Browns rushed for 2,087 yards for an average of 131 yards per game. That was good for eighth in the league. They passed for 2,076 yards, which was good for dead last in a 32-team league.
During the offseason they added rookie Montario Hardesty and third-year back Peyton Hillis to a stable that will likely include returning big man on campus Jerome Harrison and second-year back James Davis.
All-world fullback Lawrence Vickers returns to sling the sledge and clear the track for the Browns' ground game.
The Browns will also feature two unique sets that feature Seneca Wallace or Joshua Cribbs as the quarterback in either a single or double Wildcat set. Wallace will run the Cyclone formation, which can also feature Cribbs in the backfield, while Cribbs will man the Flash package. These sets will also grind out a fair amount of rushing yardage.
With a little help from the Oracle of Berea, I offer you my predictions for each player's 2010 rushing totals and the subsequent team total in 2010.
Peyton Hillis is a difficult player to pin down to a prediction. Is he a fullback or a big tailback?
Does it matter in coach Eric Mangini's world?
In the end it does matter when forecasting a yardage total without the help of Edgar Cayce.
In 2010, I foresee Hillis coming in on short-yardage downs when the play can go either way. He has excellent hands and proved in his rookie year that he can pick up yards either way at the NFL level.
I see Hillis being good for 180 pulverizing yards in 2010.
In 2010, I expect James Davis to see most of his time in either blowout wins or losses.
Regardless of my preference, let's say the Browns are involved in four games decided by 11 or more points at the end, and the cushion is 17 early enough for the reserves to see the field.
In that case, I see Davis accruing 63 yards for the season.
With Hillis, Hardesty, Harrison, and the Wildcat twins ahead of him, it's a tough roster to find field time on.
Seneca Wallace will be the ringmaster of the revolutionary Cyclone. This intriguing athlete will be combined with Joshua Cribbs in a dual Wildcat at times.
Wallace will be a threat to run, hand off, be thrown to, or throw on three to five plays per game out of this unique set. I expect him to average eight yards rushing per game for a 2010 total of 128.
Joshua Cribbs is the Browns' answer to duct tape. Need a receiver? Ask Josh. Emergency QB? Call Josh. Short of running backs? No problem—just find Josh.
Seriously, Joshua Cribbs is a phenomenal athlete who is the quarterback of the Browns' Flash package, which is their equivalent of the Wildcat.
In 2009, the Browns were so bereft of weapons that Cribbs almost exclusively called his own number and still averaged seven yards per rush.
In 2010, the Browns have much better weapons, so I expect him to utilize the players around him more. Combined with reverses and his involvement in the Cyclone and Flash packages, I expect Cribbs to average 22 yards per game for a 2010 total of 352.
Jerome Harrison finished 2009 with the entire Browns offense riding his coattails. He rushed for 561 of his 862 yards in the last three games to skew his average and make predicting his 2010 total tricky.
With the Browns using some base sets from last year along with some imported West Coast passing sets, I expect the Browns to utilize a short, horizontal passing game designed to stretch the field for the running game.
I expect Harrison to split the bulk of the carries with rookie Montario Hardesty 60/40 in his favor. I anticipate him rushing for 866 yards, or about 54 per game.
Rookie Montario Hardesty is coming off an outstanding senior year at Tennessee and has looked superb in offseason OTAs and minicamps, but he does have a significant injury history and Harrison is under contract, so there is no sense overworking him in 2010.
I expect Coach Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to use the rookie for eight to 12 rushes per game, with Hardesty averaging about 36 yards per game for a respectable season total of 579.
There will be other miscellaneous rushing yardage that will factor into the 2010 total.
I anticipate the starting quarterback rushing for 102 yards. Wide receiver reverses that do not involve Cribbs will probably net about 67 yards.
Fullback plunges are rarely used in the Browns offense, but let's factor in 15 yards just in case Daboll feels wild and crazy one fine Sunday afternoon.
In the end, I have the Browns rushing for 2,352 yards or 147 yards per game. With these numbers, the Browns would have leaped over four teams into fourth place in the 2009 rankings.
The Browns have added two new backs and received a second-year one back from injury, to go along with returning late-season sensation Jerome Harrison.
They have added two athletic tight ends in Ben Watson and Alex Smith, who are excellent blockers, to help fullback Lawrence Vickers and the offensive line establish running lanes.
I expect the Browns to utilize the Cyclone and Flash packages for a combined total of seven to nine times per game, which will add to the team's rushing totals.
The Browns will likely concentrate heavily on the run in 2010, and hopefully by establishing it early they will open up the passing game for Jake Delhomme and crew to vastly improve upon the team's 2009 passing numbers.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your summer day!