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Browns coordinators go back to the drawing board

Sep 13, 2013 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

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The Morning Kickoff …

Back to drawing board: Rob Chudzinski’s coordinators are his aces in the hole. Norv Turner and Ray Horton are the main sources of optimism that the Browns will figure this out eventually.

They are well respected, extremely qualified, experienced and highly paid.

Turner has been an NFL head coach three times. One more job would put him in the company of Bill Parcells and Marty Schottenheimer as the only men since 1970 to coach four NFL teams. Horton is on the cusp of receiving his first head coaching opportunity.

All they need to do is win here.

And after one game, they are both going back to the drawing board.

The 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Game 1 exposed all the Browns’ warts. Several are the result of an inadequate roster. Some are the result of coaching decisions.

Here are some of the things the Browns have to correct quickly on offense and defense in order to staunch this season from getting away from them.

1. Commit to Trent Richardson: This is such a no-brainer, it’s disappointing to have to even state it. At some point soon, Richardson may pull a Keyshawn Johnson and scream, “Gimme the damn ball!” He wasn’t that blatant on Thursday, but he got his point across. It’s amazing how many coaches in the heat of a game lose track of their running game. Turner’s explanation of Richardson’s mere 13 rushes against Miami was a sound bite he might wish he could take back. “What happens is you get into the game and you get caught up in wanting to try to win the game,” Turner said.

2. Phase in Richardson on third downs: The Browns were 1 for 14 in third-down situations v. Miami. Richardson often came off the field in favor of Chris Ogbonnaya. Richardson did not touch the ball on third down the entire game. Last year Giants radio analyst and former Giants and Browns linebacker Carl Banks said Pat Shurmur was doing opponents a favor by taking Richardson off the field on third down. On Thursday, Turner indicated part of the problem was that Richardson missed time in training camp and as a result was not ready to take on the responsibilities of the third-down back. Yet I watched day after day in camp as the Browns replaced Richardson with Ogbonnaya on third downs in practice. I simply do not understand it. Ogbonnaya is not going to beat any defense on third downs. Richardson has a chance.

3. Develop a running game out of the shotgun: Turner said that Richardson prefers to run from the deep set of the shotgun formation. Fine, then do it. One drawback of the shotgun is that it severly reduces options in the running game. The Browns ran 38 of 72 plays in the shotgun v. Miami. They handed off the ball exactly one time out of the shotgun. Miami’s defense never respected the running game in that formation. If the Browns are intent on transitioning their offense to the shotgun to accomodate quarterback Brandon Weeden, they better develop a running game out of it. “Look at the Philly game,” Richardson said. “They did their running game out of the shotgun and had pretty much good results.” In their 33-27 win over the Redskins in the first game of new coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles rushed 49 times for 263 yards, and the majority was out of the shotgun.

4. Help the right side of the line: Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is vulnerable to quick pass rushers and right guard Oniel Cousins is struggling at a new position. The Browns need to give both players help with a tight end or running back to keep the pressure off Weeden.

5. Receivers have to separate and then catch the ball: Josh Gordon should make a big difference in another week. But Greg Little and Travis Benjamin had absolutely brutal games against Miami – seven receptions in 18 targets between them.

6. Weeden has to speed up and improve his game: “We’re working on it,” Turner said, not mincing words. Weeden also has to temper his touch on shorter throws and deliver the ball lower in the middle of the field so that deflections don’t result in interceptions.

7. Cornerbacks have to improve on press coverage: Buster Skrine and Chris Owens played 10 yards off their receivers in the fourth quarter and Ryan Tannehill destroyed them underneath for the killer TD. When Skrine tried to play press coverage, Brian Hartline burned him for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Dolphins the lead they never surrendered. Horton called that the biggest play of the game and lamented the defensive call as one he would like back.

8. Get off the field: Tannehill converted eight of 16 third-down situations. “It was, to me, the most glaring statistic of the game,” Horton said. “There were some errors that happened on the field and I put those on myself for not having better prepared our players for certain adjustments that they did. That enabled (the Dolphins) to continue some drives and it was a huge factor in the game.”

9. Make plays: Craig Robertson, Joe Haden and T.J. Ward each dropped interceptions. If any one of them hold on to the ball, the game could have changed dramatically.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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