Monday, August 26, 2013

Tendencies and predictability

If there’s one aspect of the game that most coaches on either side of the ball pay very close attention to, it’s tendencies.

All teams have tendencies when they line up in a certain formation. The trick, then, is to show one thing and then do something completely different. Some call it the element of surprise

In the Browns’ first three exhibition games, the starters have run 85 plays from scrimmage on offense (not counting a one-play, end-of-the-first-half play) and lined up in the shotgun formation on 38 of them, or 44.7%.

Considering Brandon Weeden played solely in the shotgun or some sort of spread formation his entire career before joining the Browns last season, that’s not nearly enough shotgun plays with which to work.

Last season, he lined up in that formation about 40% of the time in Pat Shurmur’s drive-choking west coast offense. His discomfort factor was high all season. And he was most successful throwing out of the shotgun.

One would think new offensive coordinator Norv Turner would have seen that and tailored a more comfortable offense for Weeden this season. Instead, at least based on the three exhibitions thus far, that hasn’t happened.

You can count on Weeden to throw the football every time he lines up in the shotgun. In those 38 snaps from the shotgun, only two were designed runs. If I’m the opposing defensive coordinator, I’m telling my guys if you see the shotgun, forget the run and rush the quarterback.

In Saturday night’s 27-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Browns’ starters ran 14 of their 36 plays out of the shotgun with only one run. One measly Chris Ogbonnaya run that gained four yards. How much more predictable can you get than that?

Think that puts a little more pressure on the offensive line to hold their blocks a little longer, the wide receivers to get into their breaks a little quicker? You bet it does.

Are there no running plays out of the shotgun? What about running a few plays from the pistol formation? How about some no-huddle? Anything to get away from the sameness that is now the Browns’ offense.

Sure, it can be argued that Weeden and his crew looked good in the first two exhibitions even with the predictability. But it doesn’t take long for opposing coaches to figure out just what the Browns are trying to do and play the odds with the tendencies.

Where is the creativity? No misdirection plays. No reverses. Nothing remotely resembling ingenuity.

Are Turner and his offensive staff saving the good stuff for the regular season? Wasn’t the Colts game supposed to be the dress rehearsal for the regular season? If so, shut down this show right now.

Coach Rob Chudzinski is flirting with playing the offensive starters for at least two series Thursday night in Chicago against the Bears in the exhibition finale in what might be construed as punishment for such an abysmal showing in Indianapolis.

Conventional wisdom dictates resting the starters in this game and prepare for the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the Miami Dolphins, injuries being the big concern in a meaningless game.

The defense, which didn’t play that badly against the Colts, should get the night off. The offense clearly needs more work. The guess here is that Chudzinski will change his mind and give all the starters the evening off.

~ Considering defensive coordinator Ray Horton played it close to the vest against the Colts, his men acquitted themselves relatively well since they received no support from the offense.

The normally blitz-happy Horton dialed up more zone coverage than normal, causing some confusion for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who had to scramble four times, which was far more than he wanted.

Once the regular season begins, Horton is most likely going to haul out his blitz playbook and utilize it much more often than he did against the Colts. It would be surprising and somewhat disappointing if he didn’t after hearing all offseason about how much more aggressive the Browns would be on that side of the ball.

~ Weeden nailed the Browns’ problems on offense. “We’ve got to get better on first and second down,” he  said. “That’s where we were really good he first couple of games. We were putting ourselves in position on third down where we were about 50% because they were manageable. It was a little tougher on us tonight.”

Teams that win first and second down are usually teams that win games. Staying out of third-down situations, especially third and long, is paramount to the success of any offense.

~ One positive was the running of Trent Richardson, The second-year running back looked fresh, sharp and confident. Even though the offensive line still doesn’t give him much running room, he seemed to gouge out yardage after contact. If he can stay healthy – and that might not be easy considering the way he runs – and give Turner 20-25 touches a game, he will be a load.

~ Just wondering: Do the Browns have a no-huddle offense in the playbook outside the two-minute drill? We’ve been waiting for way too long to see something as novel as that from this team.

Stodgy football on offense has been a part of this franchise for many seasons. It’s about time fans were treated to something wildly different. Then again, the main reason we haven’t seen it from the Browns is maybe they don’t have the talent to pull it off.

If that’s the case, it would behoove the movers and shakers at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. to get off their hind flanks and do something about it. They talk about shaking things up and we seem to be right back where we started.

~ Final thoughts: The Oakland Raiders have released Joshua Cribbs. And guess who needs a kickoff return specialist? With Deon Lewis out for the season, that leaves only Johnson Bademosi back to return kickoffs for the Browns. If Cribbs is healthy, why not bring him back? . . . It would be surprising if the Browns cut Josh Cooper, who arguably has the best hands of all the wide receivers. 


  1. Agree. Agree. Like and Up. Hoping this was an extreme example of "playing things close to the vest".

  2. Why pick the dress rehearsal to play it close to the vest? Makes no sense. I'm not disagreeing with you. Sometimes, football coaches outthink themselves.

    If I'm the coach of a team. I want future opponents to see everything I've got and wonder what to look for. No tricks. Just solid execution.

    Call me old fashioned that way.