For an NFL team that is rebuilding, there are going to be a lot of young players throughout the entire roster. With so many young players, there are going to be growing pains. In 2017, the Browns had the youngest offense in the league, with an average of 24.80. Joe Thomas, 32, was the only starter over the age of 30. The Browns also had two rookie starters, DeShone Kizer and David Njoku.
With such a young roster, including a rookie quarterback, Cleveland’s offense was among the worst in the league. They finished dead last in the league in points per game, averaging only 14.6 points per game. But the lack of points is not because of a lack of moving the ball, as the Browns finished 24th in the league in yards per game. The biggest problem for the team was turnovers.
Cleveland also had the worst turnover differential in the NFL, finishing the season -28. That was due in large part because of the amount of interceptions thrown by Kizer. He led the league with 22 interceptions, which was six more than the next quarterback. Let’s take a deeper look at the Browns passing statistics in 2017.
DeShone Kizer – 53.6 completion percentage, 2,894 yards, 11 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, 60.5 quarterback rating
Kevin Hogan – 61.3 completion percentage, 517 yards, four touchdowns, five interceptions, 71.9 quarterback rating
Cody Kessler – 47.8 completion percentage, 126 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, 46.6 quarterback rating
The Browns finished the season throwing the ninth most attempts in the NFL with 35.9, but only finished 22nd in the league with 3,228 passing yards. They relied heavily on Kizer’s arm, as many times in the season the Browns were trailing. But throwing the ball did not equate to points. Cleveland finished with the fifth fewest passing touchdowns in the NFL with only 15 on the season. Although Cleveland lacked weapons on the outside, it was obvious that the Browns did not get the best quarterback play. That is why it is expected the Browns take a signal caller high in the 2018 draft, potentially getting their first “franchise quarterback” since the team returned in 1999.
Isaiah Crowell – 206 attempts, 853 yards, two touchdowns, 4.1 yards per carry, 59 long
DeShone Kizer – 77 attempts, 419 yards, five touchdowns, 5.4 yards per carry, 20 long
Duke Johnson – 82 attempts, 348 yards, four touchdowns, 4.2 yards per carry, 19 long
Possibly one of the most frustrating things regarding the Browns in 2017 was the lack of run game. Even though the Browns averaged 4.5 yards per carry, third highest in the league, the run game was abandoned early and often this season. Cleveland rushed the ball the fifth fewest times in the NFL, averaging 24.0 attempts per game. It even caused Crowell to speak out about his lack of carries. As soon as the Browns were down in a game, Jackson felt that he needed to rely on his passing game. But had the Browns continued to run the ball, maybe they would not have trailed as often. Even with the lack of carries, Cleveland managed to finish in the top 20 in yards per game, averaging 107.1 yards per game.
Duke Johnson – 74 receptions, 693 yards, 9.4 yards per reception, three touchdowns
Seth DeValve – 33 receptions, 395 yards, 12 yards per reception, one touchdown
David Njoku – 32 receptions, 386 yards, 12.1 yards per reception, five touchdowns
With Josh Gordon suspended and Corey Coleman injured for most of the season, the Browns did not have the most talented receivers in the NFL. The three leading receivers for Cleveland were not wide receivers, although Johnson would line up in the slot. Johnson showed that he is a playmaker in the passing game as a running back. He was able to beat guys at the line of scrimmage, but also made players miss tackles and get yards after the catch. DeValve and Njoku split time at tight end, but also found themselves on the field at the same time. Both created opportunities over the middle of the field and down the seam for Kizer. Both are building blocks for a young Browns offense, although they both struggle blocking.
The questionable play calling from Jackson has the Browns looking for a new play-caller, which could improve the team in multiple areas. It allows Jackson to focus on the entire team instead of just the offense. Without having to worry about the defense, the potentially new offensive coordinator may not abandon the run as early in games, leading to more offensive success. The Browns will likely add more young players to the offense, adding more talent to the offense. They will look to have the offensive turnaround in 2018 the Los Angeles Rams had this season.