Ace Davis: Seven Points

Ace has a seven-point plan to revive the Browns offense. Are you listening, Maurice?

No offensive touchdowns in 15 of the last 16 quarters. Worst red-zone performance in the league. Not able, not once, to run the ball into the end zone. Ranked 26th in yards per game, 28th in third-down conversions, 30th in first downs per game, 31st in time of possession.

And the offense was supposed to be the strength of this team. It still could turn out that way. The season isn't even half done. It's not the time for Browns fans to lament a lost cause, turn ugly (or uglier) toward the team or each other, or snack on our seed corn.

This sorry situation calls for solutions, not scapegoats. The names on the Browns sideline and huddle aren't going to change much if any over the next ten weeks, and it's too early to start positioning for the draft, where we need to focus on defense anyway.

It's too easy to say, well, we just need to play better. It all comes down to execution. Sure. And the key to a long life is to just keep breathing.

It really comes down to how, and that means strategy and tactics. So here are some constructive ideas for bringing the Browns' offense to life.

Throw deep. The Browns have three wide receivers with suitable speed, yet they almost never take a shot 40 or 50 yards downfield. This can't be the cornerstone of your attack, but if you show it early and go back to it on occasion, it does tend to open up the underneath routes, the sideline comebacks, and even draw plays and sweeps. Plus, someone like big Braylon Edwards might just haul in the big play or draw pass interference. Even an interception would be better than many of Kyle Richardson's punts.

Threaten defenses with Dennis Northcutt. He's the most experienced receiver we have, but he's slight. Don't line him up near the sideline, where the target seems smaller, or on the line of scrimmage, where corners can easily bump him out of rhythm. He's a natural slot receiver. Back him off the line of scrimmage. Put him in motion. Fake end-arounds or quick hitches to him to get the defense guessing. He's a weapon they must account for, but you must brandish the weapon to instill the fear.

Send Shea and Heiden up the seam. It's a pretty easy 20-yard pass to the tight end, and we've seen this play succeed, just not recently. Split the zone and get those linebackers back on their heels.

Misdirection. Fake the sweep left and run a naked bootleg with one or two quick sideline options. Try another end-around, just not when the defense is bunched up in the red zone. Pump fake right, throw left. Get the idea?

Zero tolerance for illegal formation. The Browns have been flagged five times for lining up wrong. Last week it nullified their biggest pass play of the game. It's past time for culprits to be fined, made to run laps, or whatever else is in the coaches' power in order to drive the message home. No team can afford such unforced errors.

Keep backs in the backfield. When is the last time you've seen a Browns running back make a play lined up as a receiver? What is the point, especially if doing so empties the backfield and eliminates the threat of a running play?

Establish nothing. It's a truism that the best offenses are balanced between the run and the pass. The Lions game finally showed more of a commitment to the run, at least in the first half. Still, the Browns tried to pass on every single third down they had, converting none. The secret here is to establish only that you will either run or pass at any time, from almost any formation or down-and-distance. NFL coaches are savvy trend-spotters. If defenses believe you might try anything, it's more likely you'll be able to do anything.

And anything would be better than what we've seen in recent weeks.

Ace Davis maintains the first weblog devoted to the Cleveland Browns, located at http://www.fanmonster.com/blogs/ace and accessible through the front page at http://browns.scout.com.


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