The 2013 Cleveland Browns will be taking the field on Opening Day under a new head coach in Rob Chudzinski, a new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner and a new defensive coordinator in Ray Horton. Despite the wholesale changes from the front office down to the coaching staff, the player personnel remains largely unchanged, especially on the offensive side of the ball. So let’s first take a look at the new offense and what we can expect from the Browns in the 2013 season.
The Browns are transitioning from Pat Shurmur’s version of the West Coast offense to Norv Turner’s Air Coryell offensive attack. The West Coast offense consists of many short and intermediate passes and is predicated on accuracy and efficiency from the quarterback position. The Browns passing game struggled mightily under Shurmur in 2012, largely because of quarterback Brandon Weeden’s inconsistency with accuracy, especially in the short quick passes that have to be completed for the West Coast offense to be effective.
Running under the assumption that Weeden wins the starting job in camp this year, he should be given the opportunity to air the ball out a lot more under Turner, which is more in tune with his game. Turner is a disciple of the Air Coryell offense, which is a much more vertical down-the-field passing attack that feeds off a strong power running game. The Browns certainly have the roster that suits this plan of attack, with an emerging star running back in Trent Richardson and a stout offensive line, anchored by perennial Pro Bowler Joe Thomas at left tackle. If the Browns’ other 2012 breakout stud Josh Gordon can keep himself on the field when he returns from suspension in Week 3, he will be a major factor in the aggressive passing game. Let’s see what Norv was running most recently with the San Diego Chargers offense against a familiar opponent:
Out of the spread, a tight end motions into the backfield.
All receivers go deep. The tight end is now the key blocker in the backfield, allowing running back Michael Hill to quickly chip a defender and head up field.
Hill has created a one-on-one opportunity with the middle linebacker in space.
Hill catches the ball in stride, makes quick work of the linebacker and takes it for a 25 yard gain.
This is an example of how simply the threat of the vertical passing game has created a huge gain with a simple dump out to a backup running back at a crucial time nearing the end of the half. Rivers was also able to check his receivers downfield for a big play threat.
We can expect to see a lot of different formations and packages, from power running to shotgun spreads, and constant pre-snap motion in and out of these formations. Philip Rivers threw out of the shotgun most of the time and Weeden’s success in college came out of the shotgun, so it will be interesting to see how often he is taking snaps from under center. This is an offense that can play to the strengths of Weeden, so he should have every opportunity to shine in Year 2.
What is a little surprising is that the Browns did not address the tight end or fullback position in the offseason. Past Norv Turner offenses have involved sizable contributions from the tight end and fullback positions, from the days of Jay Novacek and Daryl Johnston to Antonio Gates and Mike Tolbert, more recently. Both spots remain big question marks for the Browns heading into the season, as starting tight end Benjamin Watson was not retained and fullback Owen Marecic floundered in his sophomore season.
Expect a more open downfield passing attack from the Cleveland offense in the 2013 season. Norv Turner has a proven track record of immediate success when installing a new offense, spanning over two decades in the National Football League. We know what to expect out of the strong run game with Richardson. Ultimately, the success or failure of this offense will be measured by the growth Brandon Weeden is able to make in his second season.