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Beyond the Box Score: An in-depth look at the Cleveland Browns

A look beyond the numbers at this week's opponent for the New York Giants, the Cleveland Browns.

Larry French - Getty Images

I have a bit of familiarity with the Cleveland Browns having watched them play the Baltimore Ravens, and then the Buffalo Bills the week before (I also re-watched the first half of the Bills game). But for this particular "Beyond the Box Score" I’ll be breaking down the game vs the Cincinnati Bengals. I'll add some general insights into the

Browns vs Bengals


The first thing I'm interested in looking at is how do they use their terrific rookie running back, Trent Richardson. What kind of formations does he run out of, when does he do run a lot? Here's what he did in this game.

Formation (number of runs)

Single back (usually 2 TE sets) -- 12 carries

They also like to run a delay run out of the single back I counted three in the first half, one of which resulted in a Trent Richardson touchdown. And at least two in the third quarter.

Split back/Off-set I Formation -- Four carries

Traditional I Formation -- One carry

Shot-gun -- Three carries

The Browns like to use Richardson a lot on the first two downs and in short yardage situations and they generally run him out of a single back formation with two tight ends. They use a lot of delay runs and mix in a lot of play action passes. They'll also throw screens and use him as an outlet at times. He's the focal point of this offense.

Running back Chris Ogbonnaya came in a lot on third downs and Richardson went out. That’s because Ogbonnaya is a pretty good pass protector and can catch the football out of the backfield. If he's in the game in an earlier down it's probably going to be a pass (he has rushed two times compared to Richardson's 64 times).

Brandon Weeden

Here's a disclaimer. I was not a big fan of the Brandon Weeden pick, but here's what I saw from him in the Bengals game.

Weeden will take shots down the field if he has time, usually down the middle of the field (against the Bengals at least) and that's what the Browns wanted. Colt McCoy didn't do that well.

Weeden plays under center a lot because they run a lot of single back two tight end sets. In this game he looked a lot at Mohamed Massaquoi, and checks down a lot, but he’s still learning. Weeden didn’t make too many ill-advised throws, but checked down a lot.

Joshua Cribbs is the player the Browns have used in gadget plays for a long time now, but the Browns like rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin. They opened up the game with a reverse (10-yard gain) and in the third quarter he ran another end around. Watch him for him on gadget plays.

Wide receiver Greg Little drops a lot of passes. He has been targeted 25 times this season and dropped a league-high five passes.

The Browns have the worst collection of wide receivers the Giants will face this year.


What a bland, boring defense. Not a bad defense, they actually have some talent, they just are not an exotic defense.

The Browns run a basic 4-3 defense.

Do they have a tendency to blitz? Not really.

They rush four drop and seven often (in every game I watched).

In the Red Zone in the second quarter they started bringing the blitz. They used it a little bit more as the game progressed, but still tend towards dropping seven in coverage. And when they do blitz it’s usually linebackers.

They play off coverage a lot.

The cornerbacks don’t tackle well.

Their front four is much better than advertised, however. Jabaal Sheard is a nice young player, Billy Winn is as well. Phil Taylor, though he's hurt now, played well last year when I watched him. They don’t have a perennial Pro Bowler along their defensive line yet, but they have good solid young players up front.

Special Teams

Adam Jones of the Bengals took Cleveland's first punt back to the house. The Browns must have missed six tackles.

Punter Reggie Hoges has a huge leg. I also remember one year the Browns had him take off down the field on a fake punt in their own territory, I believe against the Lions. So watch out for that, he can run.

However, he muffed a punt in this game and had a few bad punts in the Bills game.

The Browns don’t tackle extremely well on special teams. There is a lot of room to make plays against them on special teams. The Bengals and Bills both did.

Browns vs Bills

The Browns defensive line got manhandled in the run game by the Bills offensive line, especially the interior of the Bills offensive line. But I should mention the Bills have, for my money, the best guard, center, guard combo in the league.

I don't think the Browns are a very fast defensive team like the Eagles are. A good defense, but this would be a great time for David Wilson to make a big play, if he can get some snaps.

General thoughts

The Browns must have had more than 100 penalty yards against the Bengals. They are an undisciplined team (not coincidentally they are one of the two youngest teams in the league with the Rams).

They have a starting rookie right tackle in Mitchell Scwhartz (who is a better run blocker than pass blocker and not a great athlete), but other than that they have a lot of returning starters along the line.

I'd be surprised if the numbers didn't bear out that the Browns run a lot on first down, it certainly seems that way.

A lot of yards after the catch opportunities (you hear that Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon?).

The Browns have started slow every game, but played better as the games have progressed.

That's a little in-depth look at the Browns and what you might expect from them on Sunday.