The Cleveland Browns are far away from the Super Bowl this season. The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles were the best teams in the regular season (both #1 seeds) and have continued to produce in the postseason. While the Chiefs are led by their spectacular offense and Patrick Mahomes, the Eagles are more well-rounded, with Jalen Hurts leading the way.
It promises to be an exciting Super Bowl.
For the Browns, especially as the NFL looks to limit defenses further, the offensive side of the ball is going to be critical. Cleveland has invested greatly in QB Deshaun Watson, the offensive line, RB Nick Chubb, TE David Njoku (recently lauded by a great defender) and WR Amari Cooper.
That investment could continue if WR Donovan Peoples-Jones gets an extension and/or another playmaker is brought in this offseason.
Taking a look at the two Super Bowl contenders, the Browns see two offenses that could meld together under Kevin Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt’s watch. Mahomes is a generational talent with his ability to make plays with his feet to keep plays alive. Hurts is earlier in his career and uses his legs to create yards in the rushing game even more than just to keep plays alive in the passing attack.
With Watson, Cleveland needs a little of both.
They will run versions of their zone running scheme paired with run-pass options and zone reads. That is what Philadelphia does a lot with Hurts. It gives the athletic quarterback the ability to make decisions and take advantage of the defense. It also allows the offensive line to continue to dominate without much change in scheme.
I am so jealous of the ease of inside zone for Philadelphia. Want that desperately next year.— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) January 22, 2023
Given Watson’s physical stature, he’s not as thickly built as Hurts, the Browns won’t want to run him as much as the Eagles run their QB. Instead, Stefanski and Van Pelt will need to continue to scheme their quarterback chances to get out on the edge, extend plays and open things up down the field. Andy Reid has mastered this with Mahomes.
While Cleveland fans may hate to encourage it, this is also where the Browns offense must be open to creativity. Zone reads, RPOs and moving the pocket open up defenses for trick plays and huge opportunities for the offense. Watson must be trusted to make the right decision as will other playmakers with the ball in their hands. Reid has trusted Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill but he has allowed the rest of the weapons on offense to get involved in the creativity as well.
If Cleveland’s offense is to take off next year, Watson will need a little bit of Mahomes and a little bit of Hurts in his game. While that combination might seem like an unrealistic expectation, Watson has shown that ability in his career, is getting paid like a QB who can do it and the Browns have the talent around him to help pull it off.
While it might be unfair, that is one of the biggest things I’ll be watching in the Super Bowl tonight, “how can Watson pull that off next year in Cleveland?”