The return of the Browns' running game
Kyle Shanahan said all the right things a few days ago when introduced as the Browns' newest offensive coordinator.
“You see a lot of talent on a team here and an organization committed to winning,” he said. “. . . I feel this is as good of a situation as any. I think it’s a good situation. . . . This is my first time working for a defensive coach . . . There’s a lot of talent on this roster and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Of course it’s a good situation for the young man. After all, the Browns were the first team to offer him a contract since he was fired in Washington. That right there makes it a good situation.
And you know he’s not going to come in and bash the talent on board. As for the club’s commitment to win, isn’t every team in the National Football League committed to win? In Cleveland’s case, what’s taking so long?
All the right things.
As for coaching for the first time with a defensive-minded head coach, that shouldn’t be a problem. Chances are rather strong Shanahan will coach unfettered. The offense will be his baby with no outside interference.
There will be one major difference between last season’s offense and Shanahan’s version of how to matriculate down the field. The 2014 Browns will run the ball much more often than the embarrassing product they put out last season.
Shanahan’s Redskins had a running game. That’s because he recognized the talents of Alfred Morris as a rookie two seasons ago and relied heavily on him to help balance the attack. When you have someone like Morris as a weapon, you use him.
Morris is one of those late-round draft gems teams love to unearth. A relatively unknown out of Florida Atlantic, the sixth-round selection ran for 1,613 yards (101 a game) and 13 touchdowns in his rookie season and put up 1,275 more yards and nine TDs last season.
As a result, the Redskins had a nice 57.5-42.5 pass-to-run ratio last season. The Browns’ pass/run ratio was 63.2-36.8. That’s because offensive coordinator Norv Turner was forced to call a pass-heavy game due to no running attack.
The Redskins rushed for 2,164 yards this past season. The Browns’ infantry churned out just 1,383. That’s a difference of 781 yards, or 49 yards a game.
Overall, the Redskins were ninth on offense in the NFL; fifth when running the ball, 16th throwing it. The Browns wound up 18th on offense overall; 11th passing and 27th (tied with Pittsburgh) running.
So now that Shanahan is on board and he loves to run the ball, who is going to be the Browns’ Alfred Morris? Right now, that player is not on the roster.
Forget about Dion Lewis when he comes back from an injury-plagued 2013 season. He’s more of a third-down back. And while Edwin Baker looked good in the final stages of the season, he is not the answer. Too short for the pounding he’ll take. He’s a nice backup.
It will be interesting to see how the front office helps Shanahan in this area. Whether it’s through free agency (Ben Tate?) or getting lucky in the college draft, the Cleveland running game will take on a new look this season. If that new guy is a rookie, Shanahan will not hesitate to play him.
“Any time you bring in a rookie and play them right away,” he told the Cleveland media, “you have to find out what they do well . . . You don’t want to make it too complicated for them .. . The most important thing is to ask them to do what they’re great at and then work to improve other aspects of the game.”
That’s the kind of progressive thinking this coaching staff needs.
With a renewed effort to reestablish the run, a part of the game that traditionally used to be a staple of a Cleveland offense, the passing aspect of the Browns’ offense this season should benefit greatly. No longer will the opposition be able to disdain the run and concentrate on shutting down the aerial game.
In theory, the Kyle Shanahan offense should be much more versatile than the ones Browns fans have been subjected to the last several seasons. If successful, it portends good times ahead.