|A former coach can predict the Browns' offensive play call 95 percent of the time. (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
The Browns got off to a promising start, winning two of their first three games. They've since dropped two of three and head to Houston this weekend to face the AFC South-leading Texans. And it looks like they'll do it without running back Peyton Hillis, who reinjured him hamstring at Friday's practice.
Hillis, one of the league's best backs a season ago, hasn't been a factor in 2011. Partly because he's been injured, but also because he's looking for a new contract. Things have apparently become so acrimonious that some Browns' players held an intervention of sorts for Hillis.
Details via Yahoo.com's Michael Silver.
"By Wednesday, a group of about eight Browns veterans had summoned Hillis into a meeting room for an intervention-style, air-clearing session designed to restore his focus. After a breakout season in 2010 that vaulted him to national prominence, including a spot on the Madden NFL ’12 cover, the 25-year-old back’s consuming desire for a new contract has become a locker room distraction that numerous teammates regard as an impediment to cohesion and collective success."
Hillis has played in just four games this season, rushing for 211 yards on 60 carries. According to Football Outsiders, the Browns' running ranks 30th in 2011 after finishing 15th in 2010.
Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans will host Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan as they take a look at this matchup. Watch the game at 1 PM ET on CBS.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” one Browns veteran told Silver. “Last year, Peyton was such a positive, inspirational force on our team – but now he’s like a different guy. It’s like he’s in a funk that he can’t get out of, and it’s killing us, because we really need him. And we’ve told him that. But we’re at the point where we just don’t know what to do.”
Also not helping the Browns: predictable play-calling. Second-year quarterback Colt McCoy has struggled after showing potential in 2010. He has a lower completion percentage than his rookie season (57.0 vs. 60.8), lower yards per attempt (5.7 vs. 7.1), and his scrambling totals are down (3.3 YPC vs. 4.9 YPC).
But that might not be all on McCoy. NFL Network's Mike Lombardi explains that the Browns are so married to their offensive philosophy that people half-paying attention can tell you what's coming. We're not joking.
"Writing about the Browns offense leads me to a game I play every week at NFL Films. I sit in my office in Mt Laurel, N.J., put the Browns offense on my screen and call a friend who was a coach in the league, but is now in between successes. I tell my friend the personnel group, the formation, where the ball is located on the field and what hash mark and describe the motion -- if there is any -- and ask him to tell me the exact play that will be run," Lombardi writes.
"He is correct about 95 percent of the time. No lie. The Browns are so integrated into the West Coast system that their predictability is becoming legendary around the league."
So Cleveland either has to score a ton of points on the five percent of plays the opponent can't readily identify what's coming, or they need to change up their offensive strategy. Given that the Browns have been outscored 140-107 seven games into the season, we're guessing the former isn't working.
Lombardi adds that Cleveland "needs more playmakers and a better quarterback," and it's hard to dispute that. You know what else might help? Peyton Hillis.
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