Browns

Best Bets to Bolster Baker’s Bottomline

Being the millennial I am,1 most of my brain goes to pop culture references or movie scenes whenever something good/bad/horrible/amazing/tragic/meh happens. As I watched the Chargers game with my dad, a rare occurrence nowadays due to scheduling issues on my behalf, and all of the issues on the offensive side of the ball, all my brain kept going to was the scene in The Matrix when the crew has been betrayed by Cypher and start getting picked off one by one. Switch looks up, huddled over one of her fallen comrades and says:

We all want Baker Mayfield to succeed. We all want this offense to operate at the highest possible level, and during the Chargers game, it was like watching a six-year-old play Mario Kart but all he/she does is run the player into the wall, and when you try to help him/her, all they do is yell back that they are fine even though they are now headed in the wrong direction and the little cloud dude has to come to pick them up and put them on the path again.2

It’s not that the offense has been bad insomuch as they have issues at wide receiver that need to be rectified. Usual reception machine Jarvis Landry has a catch rate of 47%. Antonio Callaway is a mystery wrapped in an enigma bundled in a trap that my heart just can’t get out of: he can catch lasers as he did on the two-point conversion, but then fails to time dives well enough and can’t seem to get his hands on easier throws. Damion Ratley was active for the first time all year and was a mixed bag of emotions Sunday as well, catching six passes for 82 yards but had a big-time drop on a would-be touchdown and a holding penalty that wiped out a nice run by should-be-starter Nick Chubb. Rashard Higgins is a few weeks away still, recovering from an MCL strain. Rod Streater broke his neck. Basically, we are the guys in Dumb and Dumber.

So what can be done? General Manager John Dorsey did not bring in another wide receiver this week, expecting last week’s late addition of Breshard Perriman to add enough to the position to make a difference. That means the help, if it comes, will be internal. Let’s take a look at who those candidates are.

Duke Johnson

Stop if you’ve heard me before. No seriously, please stop me. You can read here and here where I’ve gone in depth about the need to get Johnson involved more in the offense. Finally, on Sunday a light appeared to go off in offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s head and Johnson had the best game of the year: two rushes for 36 yards and four receptions on five targets for 73 yards. Yes, the game was firmly in the hand of Phillip Rivers and the Chargers at the point where Johnson got most of his yardage, but it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Johnson has the ability to greatly help this offense move the ball.

David Njoku

Njoku had the best game of his year last week as well, going seven of 12 for 55 yards and his first touchdown of the season. A first-round pick a year ago, Njoku was starting to draw ire from the fanbase of another missed opportunity. For that to change, he needs more plays like this one going forward.

His ability to outjump smaller defensive backs and outrun bigger defenders is apparent but has been missing. If he does indeed find it, you don’t have to worry about who or what is the WR4 on the depth chart. Also, this is yet another shoutout to WFNY/Cleveland.com/TheOBR’s Jake Burns and the work he does breaking down the film. Every Monday you can find his Twitter account doing a review of that Sunday’s game.

Nick Chubb

But Gerbs, this is about who is going to help Baker in the passing game! Chubb is a running back who sucks in pass protection! Why is he included here? Because the rookie running back is as dynamic as any other player on the roster, and getting Chubb and his 10.8 YPA the ball as often as possible is imperative. Moving the ball is the name of the game and Chubb has been doing it better than almost any running back out there. If you were to remove attempt qualifiers from the equation,3 Chubb is the best running back by far in yards per attempt. Yes, Carlos Hyde has done what is expected of him, but he’s exceedingly average at this point. There is no real reason apparent from what we’ve seen on the field to limit Chubb’s attempts.

If Dorsey and the rest of the front office will not add to the wide receiver crop, and with the trade deadline looming, it’s increasingly likely that these are the wideouts we have to work with, one or more of these three need to be utilized better. Of course, Landry could remember he’s one of the best at actually catching the ball, Callaway could make the leap literally and figuratively, Ratley has the potential to be an impact down the stretch and Higgins is only out a few more weeks. It all remains to be seen how to help the best quarterback the Browns have had in years.

 

  1. Just turned 33 this past Saturday, hold your HBD’s. []
  2. Yes this happened to me, very very recently. []
  3. Scary I know, small sample size sure. I don’t care. []