By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
If I were coach of the Browns: I would scrap the two-back, two-tight end look of the offense at the beginning of games and line up three wide receivers and a tight end with Trent Richardson as the lone back.
As presently constituted, the Browns have only two assets on offense – Brandon Weeden’s arm and Richardson’s legs. I would do everything possible to accentuate both assets.
The plodding, 1980s-era fullback-tailback run game is not working here. It’s not only not working, it is deflating everybody. Richardson spends too much time running up the ankles of fullback Owen Marecic or guards Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao. He needs room. They get in his way.
The Browns have to spread out defenses with their formation. The NFL likes to think it invents every new trend in the game. Sorry. The college game is far ahead on the offensive side. That’s why Bill Belichick visited Urban Meyer at Florida for so many years – to get a leg up on his NFL rivals.
The spread offense that has permeated the college ranks for years is now dominating the NFL game. All the dynamic NFL offensive teams are running variations of the college spread.
Weeden happens to be quite adept at operating the spread. It’s what he did at Oklahoma State. Unleash him.
The only time Weeden moves the ball is when the Browns are down by two scores and have no other recourse than to spread the field with receivers. Weeden is wired to operate under frantic circumstances. So dial it up that way from the start.
The Browns have tried to convert Weeden to a boring, 1980s, under-center, game manager. It is failing. They have no chance of winning that way.
Weeden should be in the shotgun formation at least 75 percent of the time. Richardson should be the only back in the backfield. He is the ideal one back because he can run with power or accelerate through the lanes inherent in a spread. He can stay in and block for Weeden or release and run a pass route. The spread will naturally put Richardson, as a pass receiver, in space. That is when he can turn five-yard catches into 20- or 40-yard gains.
The only negative to turning the Browns into a predominantly spread offense is that their receiving corps is so lacking. But, who knows? Maybe the spread would benefit the receivers, too. We know that the routes they’re trying to run right now are not working.
Besides, staying in the spread would keep essentially the same 11 players on the field for more than one play in a row. The needless, countless, pointless substitutions on offense every single play are counter-productive and exercises in coach’s micromanaging. Put 11 players on the field and let them play.
If I were coach of the Browns: I would ask defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, “How do you get your guys to play so hard for you?” And then I would incorporate what he says to the offense and special teams.
The defense is missing three central figures – defensive tackle Phil Taylor, linebacker Chris Gocong and cornerback Joe Haden. And yet the defense is the strength of the team.
That’s because Jauron generates such respect from his players – young and old alike – that they give him everything they’ve got.
If I were coach of the Browns: I would tell special teams coach Chris Tabor, “Give me one big play a game.”
The Browns are the most boring team in the NFL. They just are. One way to change that is to do something unpredictable on special teams.
Eric Mangini and his special teams aide, Brad Seely, would steal one game a year on special teams with something exotic. Reggie Hodges’ run on a fake punt in New Orleans is a prime example.
Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs is a former college quarterback. Use him on a throwback across the field to Travis Benjamin or Jordan Norwood. Get creative.
Fake a punt. Block a punt. Throw out of field goal formation. Just do something.
If I were coach of the Browns, I would do anything – anything – to win a game. Because time is running out.
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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