Cleveland Browns' Offensive Identity Is Fun but Incomplete and Bell Doesn't Help

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Cleveland Browns' Offensive Identity Is Fun but Incomplete and Bell Doesn't Help
Peyton Hillis has emerged as Cleveland's primary weapon.

Wow! Just when I thought the season couldn't push me any closer towards grabbing the bottle of 151 to chase my pain medication, the Cleveland Browns trade a talented running back for a Chris Jennings clone with an inflated opinion of himself in former Philadelphia Eagle Mike Bell.

With the team teetering on the precipice of nihilism with a record of 1-4 and their vaunted arch rivals, the Herculean Pittsburgh Steelers back at full strength with the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the team's season rests squarely on Sunday afternoon's rumble.

Bell is a five-year veteran who has rushed for 1,404 yards and 14 touchdowns and averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Those are not exactly inspiring numbers but he is bigger than Harrison at 6'0", 225 lbs. while Harrison was only 5'9" and 205 lbs. and his diva-type personality had done little to endear him to the Browns coaches.

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita was a teammate of Bell's in New Orleans and considers him to be a better fit for the Browns offense. ''The way Mike runs is pretty unique,'' Fujita said. ''He's real fierce in the way he attacks downhill. He can stick his foot in the ground and just explode through the line of scrimmage."

Sounds like a typical Peyton Hillis run to me. "I think as Peyton's role has expanded and the things he's done, the plays we have for him have expanded and Mike Bell's a guy we liked in free agency and really complements and is more a fit for the plays we have for Peyton," head coach Eric Mangini said.

I think Peyton Hillis is an entertaining player who can be a very effective weapon for the Browns when he is healthy and the game is close but he has been nicked up in each of the last two games and the Browns also need a complementary back that is a threat to get to the edges or else defenses will stack the middle against Hillis.

Harrison was supposed to provide that and even if I was never sold on his perceived explosive capability, he was at least a threat to take a halfback toss, run a sweep or a counter play and turn the corner once in a while.

Acquiring Bell certainly doesn't fill that role and the Steelers are certain to fill the box and dare Colt McCoy to beat them if the Browns don't use James Davis, Josh Cribbs or receivers running reverses, on the edges to give the rookie quarterback throwing lanes and Bell and Hillis room to ramble.

Davis can fill a critical role on this team. He has the speed to get to the outside and enough strength to run inside the tackles occasionally but he has been injury prone so far in his career and needs to show that he can start and finish a full NFL game without being hurt.

Just to add a little more fuel to the potential combustion, Alex Mack, John St. Clair and Floyd Womack all missed time this week with injuries. And perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas was abused last week by John Abraham.

One possibility would be to use the Flash package more often but for some reason offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has been reluctant to send in Cleveland's renaissance man, Joshua Cribbs, after signing him to a huge multi-year contract extension in the offseason. When provided with opportunities, Cribbs has looked ready to break out and he certainly has the ability to stretch the field horizontally.

I understand that Bell is protection against Hillis eventually being so nicked up he can't answer the proverbial bell but the team is 1-4 utilizing the current offensive philosophy so with all due respect to the Browns coaching staff and shot-callers it may be time to switch up the game plan a little.

Hillis is a lot of fun to watch and easy to root for but the team is going to have to find a way to get the ball to the receivers more often and find backs who can run to the edges or else teams are just going to flood the box and Hillis and Bell are going to become less effective and the three-and-outs are going to start piling up and the Browns' fine defensive efforts will continue to be wasted.

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