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Cleveland Browns need a better version of Jacoby Brissett to overcome struggles

Las Vegas Raiders
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns headed into the season with a strange predicament on their hands. Knowing Deshaun Watson would likely face a lengthy suspension, they made the decision to shed Case Keenum and add Jacoby Brissett to be their backup, with the full understanding he’d likely be starting a number of games this season.

Later came the 11-game suspension for Watson, securing his status as Cleveland’s starter until Week 12. Still, they held firm, not looking to add to the position, at least not anyone to threaten Brissett’s role in the captain’s chair.

After four starts, we’ve seen mixed results under center from the seven-year pro. But one thing’s for sure, Brissett could play a lot better if he wants to keep Cleveland’s season from coming off the rails over the next few weeks.

Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns entering tumultuous slate of games

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland’s next seven opponents:

  • Week 5 vs Los Angeles Chargers
  • Week 6 vs New England Patriots
  • Week 7 @ Baltimore Ravens
  • Week 8 vs Cincinnati Bengals
  • Week 10 @ Miami Dolphins
  • Week 11 @ Buffalo Bills
  • Week 12 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Even though they’ve played one playoff team from a season ago, a 2-2 start is likely better than most anticipated. Cleveland’s rushing game (2nd-best in NFL) is still humming along just fine, as expected. The air attack? Not so much.

Cleveland has the eighth-fewest passing yards through four weeks and has just four passing touchdowns. Some of the blame falls on the receiving corps, as Amari Cooper and David Njoku have been his only reliable receivers, but still, it’s up to Brissett to lead a more effective unit.

The crazy thing about this criticism is that the Browns still lead the sixth-highest scoring offense in football, but imagine if their passing offense could even rise to a league-average level instead of being bottom-tier?

Everyone expects Watson’s eventual return to be the big spark to the offense Cleveland craves, but there’s no reason why coach Kevin Stefanski can’t get more out of Brissett right now.

Related: NFL QB Rankings: Jared Goff lands in top 10, and Geno Smith ranks above Russell Wilson

Brissett has a big arm, and Cleveland needs to use it

Think about it, the Browns have one of the best rushing offenses in all of football, and everyone knows it. Nick Chubb is a threat to break off a big gain any time he totes the rock. That’s what makes Cleveland’s ability to move the ball, and still score, all while struggling to pass, so mystifying. The perfect blueprint for a more explosive offense is there, they just need to execute.

Where Brissett has brought a unique aspect is on the ground, converting third and fourth-and-shorts for a first down, using his big 6-foot-4 frame to his advantage. Still, it makes no sense for the Browns’ passing offense to be so limited, considering Brissett doesn’t lack arm strength.

  • Jacoby Brissett stats in 2022: 64.6% comp. rate, 830 passing yards, 4 TD, 2 INT

By having such a potent rushing offense that gains 5.0 yards per carry, their passing offense should have more opportunities to break off big gains downfield as defenses continue to creep toward the line of scrimmage in anticipation of another run. What’s crazier is that the Browns average just 6.5 yards per throw, whereas the NFL as a whole has an average of 7.1 yards gained per passing attempt on the season.

The league also averages 34.5 passing attempts per game, but not the Browns. Instead, Cleveland’s operating a scoring attack that our grandparents grew up enjoying. That is, one that actually runs more than they pass. The Browns actually have 149 rush attempts and 127 pass attempts heading into Week 5. But unlike a few others, they’re not leading a winning effort.

If Brissett doesn’t start connecting more frequently on deep shots such as this one to Donovan Peoples-Jones, the Browns could be in trouble far before Watson even gets a chance to take the field.

Related: 2022 NFL offense rankings: Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks enter the top 20