Browns Abandon the Ground Game

During the 2020 season, before he had his own breakfast cereal, Nick Chubb ate “stacked boxes” for breakfast, averaging 6.1 yards-per-carry against the “terrifying” defensive formation. That’s an astounding number. How is it possible? Well, as the defense crowds the line-of-scrimmage, and is able to stop the running back most of the time, they leave themselves open to a catastrophic breakthrough.

Imagine there are 11 defensive players in the box, and then Wyatt Teller flattens one of them, and Chubb bursts through the hole. What are the chances of anybody catching him? Slim to none. Whether it is a goal-line stand, or the defense trying to smash-mouth the Browns on the first play of the game at the 25 yard-line, Chubb is gone.

So, why is HC Stefanski so afeared of stacked boxes when he has a literal arsenal of ground power? My theory is that he is staring down the barrel of a losing season, and feels the need to score points right now. So, instead of running his elite running back behind his elite guard, he has his one-armed quarterback (Baker) throw another incompletion to his one-legged receiver (Landry). As you may have noticed, that strategy didn’t work versus the Ravens.

The Browns’ stellar defensive play was pissed-away, and what would have been a glorious victory in Baltimore was lost.

After the game, “boxes” were the talk of the town. Looking at the data, it turns out that Chubb has only 3.2 YPC versus stacked boxes this year. Maybe his next chunk play will goose that number back up. But it’s not like the Browns are getting blown-out versus stacked fronts because Kareem Hunt has an amazing 6.4 YPC, and D’Ernest Johnson has a stellar 5.8.

Turns out, the Browns can run the ball. Who knew? Now, perhaps Stefanski has analytics proving that the Ravens are the more physical team and trying to beat them mano a mano is simply not feasible. Even if that were the case, I would still want to see the smash-mouth showdown.

Who’s with me?

In other words, just because the defense decides to “take away the run” doesn’t mean the Browns have to acquiesce. Suck it up buttercup! Here’s the first-quarter game plan: run, run, run, punt, run, run, run, punt, run, run, run, TD. Having a good punter helps with such siege-warfare. Lather, rinse, repeat for the remaining three quarters and put up 28 points, which should be child’s play for the defense to protect.

The way the Browns’ defense is playing means that the offense only has to do a modest amount of scoring to win. So, there is no need to rush. Just keep the pressure on, wear the Ravens defense down, and then start popping the chunk plays.

The Browns’ passing-game, especially with Rashard Higgins benched, yet again, is a shambles. Whatever slim chances the Browns have to make the playoffs, it’s pretty certain that the only way they can get there is by leaning on their only remaining strength: the ground game.

Before the Ravens game, OC Alex Van Pelt said this about Baker:

“The ball was flying off of his hands. He was very accurate. I do not know if we had an incompletion yesterday.”

How was Baker’s accuracy in the game? Dogshit. He was 18 of 37 for a 48.6% completion-rate. The only QBs with worse numbers were Jalen Hurts (45.2%) and Cam Newton (23.8%).

Playing a smashed-up Baker is tantamount to abandoning the passing game. And when you consider how Stefanski has abandoned the running game, that doesn’t leave much on offense, now does it?

Note to Browns defense: you are going to need some pick-sixes to win games going forward because you literally have no offense to help out with the scoring.

Note: To learn about defensive fronts, see this page: Meet the Metric – Base, Stacked, and Light Fronts.

Note: To look-up player stats, go to this site, type in the player’s name, and then scroll down the page to the “Formation-Specific” section. This section will not be present if the player doesn’t have enough carries.