Don’t expect much trickery from the Cleveland Browns offense in 2020
Trick plays are exciting, we all know that. They catch defenses off-guard and can lead to some big plays. We saw that in 2018 with the Cleveland Browns when they ran the ‘Cleveland Special‘ on a two-point conversion that ended with quarterback Baker Mayfield catching a pass from wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
However, not all trick plays go well. Take a game later that same season for example. Not long after Freddie Kitchens took over as the play-caller, he brought back the ‘wishbone offense’ that had three running backs in the backfield.
He used this formation in a Week 10 win over the Atlanta Falcons to move the ball down the field on a first-half drive but then things fell apart as running back Dontrell Hilliard threw a terrible pass that ended up in the hands of Falcons safety Damontae Kazee.
That play was a stark reminder of why trick plays are so uncommon — they’re wildly dangerous. They’re also predominantly used by teams who can’t operate in a traditional offense. A great example of that is the 2008 Miami Dolphins who were weak at quarterback so they decided to work out of the wildcat formation with running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams keeping defenses off-balance. That fad swept the league for a couple of seasons but has now primarily gone away.
The good news in saying all this is that the Browns no longer look like a team that will need to resort to any trick plays. Instead, they have the makings of a run-first offense that will line up and do what they do best while daring teams to stop them. That’s at least the way Ellis L. Williams of Cleveland.com sees it as he says there aren’t going to be trick plays in this offense, but rather a detail-oriented offense built around head coach Kevin Stefanski’s zone running game.
"“Cleveland didn’t hire Stefanski to create dazzling offensive fireworks.”“Instead, he is expected to build everything around a repetitive, but detail-oriented zone running game and effective play-action passes. Every remote offseason meeting and player acquisition reinforced that belief.” — Williams, Cleveland.com"
Stefanski was clearly hired to get the most out of this offense and he has the background to instill confidence. He was highly effective at Minnesota and helped Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, and Stefon Diggs all have carer-years in 2019.
Now in Cleveland, he has arguably more weapons. At running back he has the 2017 NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt, who is backing up the No. 2 runner in the NFL in 2019, Nick Chubb. There’s also Baker Mayfield who has Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, and Austin Hooper at his disposal in the passing game.
But most importantly, they also have a revamped offensive line thanks to the addition of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills.
In the end, this team is built to wear defenses down in the run game and that’s exactly what we should expect. There will be no trickery, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some fireworks.