Somehow, Browns need to find a way to run well

Posted Oct 21, 2011

Despite Peyton Hillis' hamstring injury and the Seahawks' stout run defense, the Browns must figure out a way to have success on the ground Sunday.

It’s hard to say exactly how good of a team the Seahawks are.

At 2-3, they share an identical record with the Browns. The Browns’ 2-3 doesn’t feel so good, especially after back-to-back losses to Tennessee and Oakland. The Seahawks, on the other hand, won their last game, in week 5 against the Giants, and have won two of their last three games. Nevertheless, as Bill Parcells is fond of saying, you are what your record says you are.

Statistics can be somewhat revealing as well. And the stats say the Seahawks have one of the better run defenses in the NFL. The stats also say the Browns have one of the league’s worst rushing attacks.

It didn’t help that Peyton Hillis’ playing time against the Raiders came down to a brief cameo after he exited the game early with a hamstring injury. It won’t help that, given the fact he has not practiced this week, he is likely to continue to be sidelined.

But even before Hillis left the Oakland game, the Browns weren’t getting much in the way of production on the ground. Hillis averaged all of 2.3 yards per carry on six attempts.

And things didn’t get any better after Montario Hardesty took over as the Browns’ primary running back. Hardesty ended up averaging only 3.2 yards on 11 tries.

The Browns’ offensive struggles are many, but nothing is causing more problems for them on that side of the ball than their inability to put together a sustained ground attack, which has been an issue through most of their five games.

On Sunday, Hardesty needs to step up with a big performance and newly acquired Chris Ogbonnaya needs to make at least some sort of contribution in Hillis’ place.

It’s true that Pat Shurmur’s offensive philosophy is to set up the run with the pass. It’s true that Colt McCoy has thrown 61 and 45 passes in each of his last two games.

The trend of the more passes-to-runs ratio isn’t likely to change any time soon. But what must change is the Browns’ effectiveness when it comes to being able to run well.

By all accounts, the Browns should have a solid enough offensive line to get the job done on the ground. Joe Thomas remains among the very best tackles in the game. Alex Mack is an outstanding center, and despite being barely two weeks removed from an appendectomy, he more than held his own against the Raiders. Tony Pashos is a wise and scrappy veteran tackle whose toughness carries over to the rest of the line.

If there are vulnerabilities, they exist at the guard spots, where rookie Jason Pinkston and second-year man Shawn Lauvao are still working to establish themselves as solid NFL players.

But the bottom line is that the Browns must be able to count on at least one running back, and preferably two, to give them the balance their offense so desperately needs … and to give them a chance to succeed against a strong run defense such as the one they’ll face Sunday.

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