Browns-o-centric happenings around the NFL
Cleveland Browns-o-centric QB trends around the NFL
Other teams in the NFL are tinkering with the way they handle the QB position. The Browns may or may not follow suit, but it’s worth paying attention to what’s going on. Teams want to look at ways to reduce the wear and tear on quarterbacks, especially in light of the 17-game season.
Options include clock management to reduce the number of plays per game; reduced utilization of quarterback running plays including the sneak; and even occasional use of a specialty quarterback, be it a “Wildcat” or some other change of pace quarterback.
The buzz from the football intelligentsia in the media is mostly negative on two-quarterback systems, especially on the last point. But Taysom Hill continues to do his thing in New Orleans. Marcus Mariota came in for Derek Carr of the Raiders and gained 31 yards on the ground on MNF. We also had a Wildcat sighting in Miami in Week 1, with two running backs taking snaps in place of Tua Tagovailoa. This may be partly driven by a mistrust of Tua , but it worked.
San Francisco found a few spots for Trey Lance. Chicago used Justin Fields for a couple of throws, and Green Bay ushered in the Jordan Love era after Aaron Rodgers was terrible. None of these alt-quarterbacks will start in week two. Supposedly two-quarterback systems are unworkable in today’s NFL, but for various reasons, we saw seven alternate quarterbacks take the field in Week 1.
Recall that one of the precipitating crises that resulted in the 2017 firing of long-time Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley (and eight-game Cleveland Browns assistant) was that he did not want Ben Roethlisberger to run the quarterback sneak. Le’Veon Bell, who at the time was an All-Pro running back, came up short once or twice, and Steelers Nation totally had a cow over that.
Fans (and front offices and owners) have to realize that there is no play call that is 100% effective). So what were they paying All-Pro running back, it is not a stupid play call to use him on short-yardage, rather than the quarterback.
To make a long story short, the prediction here is we may see more running backs on third-and-one, and fewer quarterback sneaks. A few teams may copy the Dolphins and direct snap to a running back in the Wildcat (or Spread formation variant) until defensive coordinators re-learn how to defend against it. There’s no compelling reason to get the $40 million-per-year quarterback banged up.
Will the Browns follow suit? Not yet.
As for the implications for the Browns, we can assume there is no special option plays for Case Keenum. The problem is that Keenum is much slower than Mayfield and not exactly the most athletic quarterback in the NFL. Hence the Browns will continue to allow Baker Mayfield to run the quarterback sneak in short-yardage situations and accept the risk of having a 330-pound behemoth step on his throwing hand.
But, what would happen if Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt took a direct snap with an extra blocker lined up in the backfield? It’s an interesting possibility, but the Browns and other NFL teams will wait to see if other NFL teams learn to stop the Miami Dolphins short-yardage formation before adapting it for their team. If short-yardage becomes a thing, we might see other teams pick it up, but we’re just not feeling the buzz right now.
If they ever promote quarterback-turned-fullback Johnny Stanton from the reserve squad, they could possibly work with him.