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Midseason Report: the Cleveland Browns' Offense (Part II)

In Part I, I broke down three plays that I felt exemplified the Browns' offensive woes this season.  Here, I will break down two plays that did go our way.

The Browns may lack explosive playmakers who could allow us a good offense, but by studying exactly what it is that has (and hasn't) worked for us, a solid offensive coordinator could put together a competent offense without any personnel changes.

Play 1

After stopping the Packers on 4th and 1 midway through the first quarter, the Browns took over at their own 30 yard line.  We lined up in a singleback formation with WRs Mohammed Massaquoi and Mike Furrey lined up to the left of the formation, along with TE Michael Gaines.  Jamal Lewis is in the backfield, and TE Greg Estandia is on the opposite side of the formation:


I actually like what the coaching staff did with this formation for a couple of reasons. 

First, it is hard to run a Cover-2 against a trips formation, so we should have already taken some of Green Bay's defensive options. 

Second, double TE sets usually have a built in advantage against an odd front: they match up fairly well with 3-4 OLBs, and Daboll could play a cat/mouse game with Green Bay DC Dom Capers (alternating between keeping the TEs in to block the OLBs and then releasing them to catch passes).

Third, before TE Michael Gaines goes in motion, look at the right side of our line vs the left side of Green Bay's defense above.  If we were to run to the right, we'd outnumber Green Bay 4 to 3 on that side.  If we executed our blocks well, we could momentarily double-team NT Ryan Pickett, then have RG Rex Hadnot relase to block ILB A.J. Hawk at the second level.  Jamal Lewis wouldn't face a potential tackler for 10 yards.

We do end up bringing Gaines in motion, and DA sees that Green Bay is once again in a Cover-1 look:


The motion not only reveals something about the coverage, it also causes confusion between LB Nick Barnett and S Atari Bigby:


Whatever switch Green Bay wanted to happen didn't happen.  DA quickly notices that Gaines is wide open, and checks down with an accurate, easy to catch pass


The ball has some touch on it but is still thrown with enough zip that Gaines is able to catch it in stride with enough space between him and the sideline to secure the ball and turn upfield for a nice gain.



Play 2

Later in that same drive, we lined up in a strong I formation with Massaquoi and Robiskie at WR, Estandia at TE, and Vickers and Lewis in the backfield.  Green Bay showed a Cover-3 shell before the snap (again), by walking CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson back before the snap.


Green Bay was walking a safety up into the box all day and basically daring our WRs to beat them through the air.  Anderson notices and makes a check:


After the snap Anderson, FB Lawrence Vickers, and RB Jamal Lewis all do a great job of selling a little play-action fake.  It isn't a full on "stick it in his gut and pull the ball back out" fake, but with a quick twitch by DA and good salesmanship by Vickers and Lewis, Woodson bites.


Above, you can see Woodson take one false step, and that's all the Browns needed.  DA sees that Robiskie has Woodson beaten, but he also notices FS Nick Collins coming over from his centerfield responsibility (out of screen) to cover Robiskie. 



DA knows that with the free safety out of the picture, CB Al Harris is truly on an island against Massaquoi.  He also knows that because GB is playing a Cover-3, Massaquoi should be wide open on his route, a slant/deep in.


DA throws a great ball, right on Massaquoi's numbers. 20 yards, a first down, and a facemask penalty for good measure.


After a very brief review of what is and isn't working for the Browns' offense, here are my reccommendations:

  1. Simplify the playbook.  There is too much wild experimentation, too many plays, and to little mastery of the plays we run.  We need to establish some success in moving the ball, and then we can add wrinkles from week to week.  Experiment, sure.  But first and foremost make sure people know where they need to be and can play fast, "without thinking".
  2. Use the Giants' "Omaha" call.  We don't need to use the word "Omaha", but we should have a word that our QB uses to indicate that the snap count is live.  Prior to saying the "hot word", whoever our QB is can use the hard count to try to get the defense to show their hand.  We should use this at least 50% of the time.  Eric Mangini wants to make this a disciplined, intelligent football team, so our strategies should reflect that.  This would require our players to be more disciplined than the opposing defense, but could get us some real advantages.
  3. Run when there are 7 in the box, pass when there are 8.  The "Omaha" call would give us the upper hand as to determining this (see how those things go hand in hand and they aren't just randomly thrown together?).  Far too often, we are trying to run with 8 in the box.
  4. Run the same concepts from different formations.  Yeah, it is a little "college offense-ish", but we might actually move the ball if we did it.  If we run the ball with a Power O play, run the Power-O play with 2WR, 3WR, 4WR, and from the Wildcat.  If we are going to run the Smash passing concept or the Slants concept, run it out of several formations.  Have a few plays that work better against MOFO (middle of field open) coverages like cover-2 and cover-4, and some that work well against MOFC (middle of field closed) coverages.  Build around the core concepts of the offense.
  5. Find an identity.  What exactly are the core concepts that we build around?  If we had no idea what the defense was doing and we needed 4 yards, how would we try to get those yards?  Run?  Pass?  Inside?  Outside?  Do we stretch the field horizontally?  Are we looking to make big plays or take short, easy passes?  Will we win with strength?  Speed?  Right now, I don't think we even know what we like to do.