Predicting what the 2019 Cleveland Browns offense will look like is a little tougher than projecting the 2019 defense. New Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, Head Coach Freddie Kitchens and OL coach James Campen will likely all have an influence on the 2019 offense. today I’d like to take a look at what Monken did in Tampa and how it might compare to what Kitchens did in Cleveland.
Monken coached in an Air Raid offense at Oklahoma State under Mike Gundy, then in an Air Coryell offense under Dirk Koetter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’ll bring that experience to Kitchens’ lineage in an Air Coryell offense, so we should see an exciting and explosive brand of offense in 2019.
Let’s take deep dive into some statistics for a look at what Monken might bring.
Shotgun vs Under Center
Tampa Bay: 62% snaps from shotgun, 38% from under center
Cleveland: 63%, 37%
Monken’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense exactly matched the NFL average in this area. Considering the similarity to the Browns offense, I wouldn’t expect much of a change.
What might change is the run/pass distribution from each type of formation.
Shotgun run/pass distribution:
Tampa Bay: 85% pass, 15% run
Cleveland: 80% pass, 20% run
NFL average: 77% pass, 23% run
Under center run/pass distribution:
Tampa Bay: 38% pass 62% run
Cleveland: 29% pass, 71% run
NFL average: 32% pass, 68% run
There are two takeaways here for me. The first is that Monken called a lot of passes last year, period. The second is that while Tampa skewed heavily toward the pass from shotgun, the Browns skewed heavily toward the run under center. Here’s hoping Monken and Kitchens can balance one another out.
While Tampa’s passing numbers stick out, they only attempted 22 fewer runs than the Browns in 2018. On the year, the Buccaneers ran 1055 total plays, good for the 6th-most in the NFL. The Browns came in 10th with 1023 plays.
Monken’s offense was also good at gaining yardage on those plays. averaging 6.3 yards per play. This was good for 3rd in the NFL, trailing only the Chiefs and Rams. The Browns were good for 12th in the NFL at 5.8 yards/play
One area where the Buccaneers needed to improve was avoiding turnovers, as they accumulated a league-worst 35. The Browns were moderately better, sitting at t-8th in the league with 24 turnovers.
Monken lived up to the Air Raid moniker by throwing the ball frequently:
625 Passing Attempts (4th in the NFL)
5125 Passing Yards (1st in NFL)
Not only did Tampa throw often, they threw it well:
8.6 Yards per Pass Attempt (2nd in NFL)
36 Passing TDs (t-3rd in NFL)
Traditionally, NFL teams have tried to throw more often on “passing downs” when put in longer-yardage situations on 2nd or 3rd down. However, Monken does not appear to adhere to those philosophies:
1st down pass%: 68.3% (3rd in NFL)
2018 Browns: 59.82% (15th in the NFL)
Another thing that Monken wasn’t afraid to do in Tampa Bay was throw the ball deep:
Pass completions over 40 yards: 14 (4th in NFL)
Pass completions over 20 yards: 71 (2nd in NFL)
Thanks to experimental NFL player tracking data, we can begin to get a better picture of what Monken’s passing offense looked like:
Average Completed Air Yards:
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 8.8 (1st in NFL)
Jameis Winston: 8.4 (2nd in NFL)
Average Completed Air Yards tracks how far vertically down the field the receiver was at the moment of every completion. For the average Ryan Fitzpatrick completion last year, his receiver caught the ball 8.8 yards down the field. When you consider check-downs underneath and screens are a part of any offense, this number is quite impressive.
For context, Russell Wilson was the next highest in ACAY with 7.3 ACAY, while Baker Mayfield was 11th at 6.3 ACAY. That both Tampa Bay quarterbacks were completing passes over a yard further downfield than the rest of the league is eye-popping.
Average Intended Air Yards is the same as Completed Air Yards, only it tracks all passing attempts, not just completions:
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 10.2 IAY (3rd in NFL)
Jameis Winston: 10.8 IAY (2nd in NFL)
Again, both Tampa Bay QBs are in the top 3 in this metric in terms of trying to throw the ball downfield. Interestingly, Josh Allen attempted passes further down the field than the Tampa duo, he just was not very efficient in terms of completing them.
Air Yards Differential tracks the difference between Average Intended Air Yards and Average Completed Air Yards. A large negative number in AYD means that a passer’s incompletions tended to be further downfield with his completions on shorter throws. A zero here would mean that a passer averaged the same distance on completions and incompletions. A positive number would indicate that somehow a passer threw a higher completion percentage on deeper passes than shorter ones.
Using AYD in combination with Average Intended Air Yards, we can essentially compare how aggressive a passer tried to be (in terms of throwing further downfield) with how good he actually was at throwing further down the field.
IAY: 11.0 (1st in NFL)
AYD: -4.6 (worst in NFL)
Josh Allen attempted to push the ball further downfield than any QB in the NFL last year. He also very bad at completing passes down the field.
IAY: 11.2 (3rd in NFL)
AYD: -1.4 (2nd in NFL)
Fitzpatrick not only was a very aggressive downfield thrower, he was lethal.
IAY: 10.8 (2nd in NFL)
AYD: -2.4 (27th in NFL)
Winston was slightly more aggressive downfield than Fitzpatrick, but was not as efficient in completing his deeper throws.
The last stat we’ll look at today will be Aggressiveness %. Using player tracking data, the NFL calculates the percentage of passes a quarterback throws to a receiver who is within 1 yard of a defender at the time the ball arrives. This essentially reflects the percentage of a QB’s passes that are fit into a “tight window,” regardless of whether they are complete or not.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 20.7% (3rd highest in NFL)
Jameis Winston: 20.4% (4th highest in NFL)
The Tampa QBs both frequently threw to receivers who were tightly covered. While they were largely successful, this also is slightly concerning to me. A good offense should bring the quarterback to open receivers, not necessarily rely on the QB delivering a perfect ball.
But with Tampa Bay throwing so many passes deeper down the field this number makes sense: many defenses will concede shorter throws is they must, and almost every defense will prioritize defending the first down makers and big plays. So it would make sense that an offense that throws deeper would be throwing into tighter coverage.
These stats paint a picture of an offense that is simply very aggressive. Monken’s Buccaneers offense threw the ball early and often, they threw it deep, they threw it into tight windows, and they pushed their limits, turning the ball over a lot along the way.
This aggressive approach was largely successful. Tampa Bay QBs threw for a ton of yards, and they scored a lot of touchdowns. If Freddie Kitchens and Baker Mayfield can mitigate some of the turnovers and the Browns can continue to feed Nick Chubb carries, next year’s offense should be an extremely fun one to watch.