Brian Hoyer is playing the quarterback position at a high-level. Through three weeks, NFL.com ranks both and Terrance West as the two best rookie running backs in the league. Andrew Hawkins has caught at least six balls for 70 yards against three of the better defenses in the NFL.
The fuel behind the Browns' stunning offensive firepower has gone unnoticed: the offensive line.
Hoyer was able to pick apart the Ravens' defense and engineer a game-winning drive against the Saints because he had ample time to make reads and deliver throws. The Browns rank 10th in the NFL in rushing with a pair of rookies who didn't play Division-I college because there have been gaping holes to sprint through.
The surprise member on Cleveland's offensive line has been John Greco. ProFootballFocus.com has the 29-year-old as the fourth best guard in the NFL. In the zone-blocking scheme, brought in by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Greco's role changed to where he's now often rumbling down the field as a lead blocker. Greco's weight loss and his subsequent increase in athleticism has been a reason for many of the Browns big runs in 2014.
"We have the freedom where we can just fly off the ball," said Greco. "The whole scheme, being relatively new to us, we are happy with some things but we're greedy. We want four yards to turn into seven yards. We want seven yards to turn into 10 and then 10-yarders to turn into 60-yarders."
Just one month ago, Greco acknowledged he and the offense heard chirping from the media and the Dawg Pound faithful. The Browns' preseason output on offense lacked any type of electricity or results – and points were hard to come by. Greco said doubts about the offense never infiltrated the locker room, though.
"We didn't hang our heads," said the Toledo alum. "We kept moving forward."
The improvements, like most in football, have come in the classroom. When the entire offense meets together, Greco and the offensive linemen hear what running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery says to Crowell and West and vice-versa. The more these rookie running backs learn the intricacies of how running lanes develop, the better chance they have of becoming special players. The more the offensive line learns how the rookies think, the better angles they can create on blocks.
"I think that's really going to help our offense come together and gel more," said Greco of the film watching sessions. "The rookie running backs, they see things. They hit holes. They have instincts."
Cleveland's zone-blocking scheme calls for many double-teams. Often times Greco works with Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz to take out someone like Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata or even down the field against a speedy linebacker.
"I think it's a thing where we are playing…not more reckless but, loose," said Greco. "And just trusting it and having more confidence."
Players have split opinions about the early bye week. Greco's in the middle. He's happy to reset his batteries and charge up for the 13 remaining games. But the taste from the last second defeat against the Ravens is still lingering.
When the Browns do gear up for their October 5th game against the Titans, you can bet the Tennessee defensive linemen will be taking detailed notes on how well Greco has played to begin the season.