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Addition by Subtraction: Film Breakdown of Baker Mayfield’s 28 Yard Touchdown to Rashard Higgins

Paring down the playbook, making fakes effective

Atlanta Falcons v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

It has only been two games since the Cleveland Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but the Browns already seem to be turning the offense around.

Part of the turnaround undoubtedly has to do with the players. Rashard Higgins is healthy and has provided another set of steady hands at wideout, Greg Robinson has played well at left tackle, and the continuing emergence of Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield has been incredible. But many of these players were playing for Jackson and Haley at some point during this season. There have been no major additions to the roster.

The playbook is also mostly the same. There simply isn’t time during an NFL season to completely revamp an offense in one week. The selection of plays we run from that playbook, however, is very much different.

Under Jackson and Haley the Browns seemingly ran every play from every formation with every personnel grouping. This might sound good in theory, but in practice the Browns often missed assignments, drew procedural penalties, or otherwise couldn’t execute. What’s worse is that despite having so many plays to work with the calls were still predictable.

The Browns are averaging 68.2 offensive plays per game in 2018. If you throw out plays like kneeldowns, and then group the plays into various situations (goal line, backed up, 3rd and long, trailing in the 4th quarter, etc.) There simply isn’t room for the disparate variety of plays Jackson and Haley wanted to run. This led to pre-snap tendencies that defenses could read, and they did.

Thus far, Freddie Kitchens has taken the opposite approach. He has pared the playbook down and presented relatively few plays to the defense, in favor of making those plays look similar to one another. The result? Defenses can’t know what is coming before the snap, and the offense has only had to practice a few key things (so they’ve been much better at executing those things). And we’ve all seen how that translates to the field.

If there is a play or set of plays you’d like me to break down, let me know in the comments below. I won’t be able to get to them all during the season, but I’m happy to take suggestions.