Thursday, August 22, 2013

What have we learned about the 2013 Cleveland Browns offense?


By Karl Kimbrough, Cleveland Urban News.Com Sportswriter. Reach Kimbrough at kimbrough@clevelandurbannews.com.



Cleveland Urban News.Com
Sportswriter Karl Kimbrough


CLEVELAND, Ohio-The Cleveland Browns have begun the 2013 preseason with two wins. First stopping the St. Louis Rams 27-19 and the jumping all over the Detroit Lions 24-6. Is this enough reason to be excited about the new season when the games don't count? Should Browns fans temper their enthusiasm until teams crank it up to play for real in two weeks?

The answers are yes and no. Yes playing well in preseason is enough reason for fans to be excited and no, they don't need to temper their enthusiasm. Win or Lose there is a lot we can learn from preseason and training camp play. Those who follow the Browns closely are using adjectives like disciplined, aggressive, and efficient when talking about what they have seen from this years team. These are not quite the superlatives that we would like to hear such as physically dominant or awesome. 

Those descriptions would be reserved for teams that go deep into the playoffs. So the Browns have to improve on and show a lot more before they can be Super Bowl contenders. But if you are consistently efficient, disciplined, and attacking aggressively the playoffs may not be far off. This type of play would be a huge improvement over recent seasons on the lake front.

Head Coach Rob Cudzinski, his staff as well as the players are giving fans reason to be optimistic. In a short period of time they have collectively put more than a respectable product on the field. We have learned that offensively all the moving parts conceptually understand what their job is and are functioning well as one whole.

This is occurring because the philosophy of the coaches have been well taught and they are putting their players in situations to succeed. Over the years the question, who's most important excellent players or excellent coaches has been frequently asked. What is happening with the Cleveland Browns at this time is a great example of how the answer to that question is, both. The Browns coaches are putting their players in a position to take advantage of their skills, but the players must make plays.

We can see how offensive coordinator Norv Turner is living up to this reputation as an outstanding quarterback coach. He has worked on Brandon Weeden's weaknesses which include execution, reading defenses, getting the ball out of his hands quicker, and accurately. Also, by putting him in position to use the strength of his skill set Weeden is gaining confidence, which impacts the teams efficiency a great deal. Coach Turner is also well known for his ability to call the right plays at the right time. Those who understand the concept of the game of chest can appreciate how important it is to use each chess peace properly to setup the next move. Turner understands this concept and applies it to the game of football.

Even in this short preseason where Turner is not using all of the repertoire of plays he demonstrates how dynamic his play calling can be. In the first preseason game against the St. Louis Rams the first string offense only played a few possessions, but scored on each. On their only touchdown drive Turner called the following plays in succession: running play by Brandon Jackson for 12 yards, a pass to Josh Gordon for 6 yards, a pass play to tight end Gary Barnidge for 6 yards, screen pass to Dion Lewis for 6 yards, running platy to Lewis for 2 yards, pass to tight end Cameron Jordan on a crossing route for 30 yards  to the 6 yard line, two short running plays to Jackson and a touchdown pass to running back Lewis.

On the touchdown pass to Lewis, Turner showed his genius by putting all the wide receivers on the left side of the formation and lining Lewis up in the backfield on the right side. This isolated the quick little running back on a linebacker which is always a mismatch. This succession of plays gives fans an idea of how Turner will use the run and the pass with multiple players getting the ball at anytime to keep the defenses off balance and create mismatches.

Before the defense knows what happened its checkmate or touchdown Browns! Turner uses his players like a well arranged symphony each instrument blending in harmoniously, but also having it's own individual moment to shine. We have also learned that in Turner's offense he will test every part of the defense, inside outside on the perimeter, deep down field inside and out. Turner has shown that it is his philosophy to use every skill position on the offense including a change of pace running back. Using him as a runner or receiver out of the backfield.

Lewis was acquired in the off season from the Philadelphia Eagles. He would have been Turner's favorite change of pace runner, but a fractured tibia will keep him out most if not all of the season. This means that Jackson will have to replace Lewis in that change of pace roll. Jackson does not have the quick feet that made Lewis so effective and aesthetically pleasing to watch, but is stronger with good hands and is harder to tackle. From what the offensive line has shown so far they will do well in  blocking against the pass rush, but possibly struggle in blocking for the run on a consistent basis. This was the offensive lines I.D. in 2012 also. If they want to make the playoffs the offensive line will need to step up it's performance.

They will need to step up even more now that Jason Pinkston will be lost for at least the first month of the regular season after spraining his ankle against the Lions. The Browns are now thin at the offensive guard and are looking to rookie Garrett Gilkey to play right guard when the regular season begins. Previous starter Shawn Lauvao is going to miss at least two weeks of the regular season and possibly more due to his ankle surgery. One of the other new players that the offensive has not featured yet is slot receiver Davone Bess. Although we have not seen much of him in preseason he will be a prominent part of the offense, especially when a first down is needed.

If the offensive line can be aggressive and hold up, and Weeden continues to gain confidence it will probably be a very good season for skill position players. Running back Trent Richardson must run well from the running back position. If so he will require defenses to put eight men in the tackle box which will open up passing lanes for Weeden. Look for Gordon, Greg Little, and Cameron Jordan to be put in positions to be play makers and have break out years as well. By playing consistent, aggressive, disciplined and efficient football the Browns will surprise several teams and making their fans happy in the regular season as well as the preseason.