As expected (hoped?), the Cleveland Browns and head coach Pat Shurmur are using their extended time away from the playing field to do a bit of tinkering with rotations and play-calling. While the obvious benefactor thus far is wide receiver Greg Little who was promoted to starting “X” receiver alongside Mohammed Massaquoi (replacing Brian Robiskie), another weapon for Colt McCoy will likely come in the form of additional snaps for tight end Evan Moore.
Moore, who had seen a considerable drop in snaps and targets over the past two games – leading to a bit of frustration following the loss to the Titans – appears to be in line for a reversion back to usage rates akin to the first two weeks of the season. Given Shurmur’s words following Monday’s practice, it appears that not only will Robiskie see a decrease in snaps due to Little’s promotion, but the Browns could in turn use wide receivers even less than they have to this point.
Truly, it comes down to pure math and the fact that the team would like to keep tight end Ben Watson on the field as much as possible. See for yourself.
If Watson is a “three-down” receiving threat and the Browns will implement a three-receiver rotation between Massaquoi, Little and Cribbs, until the league allows the Browns a legal 12th man on offense, this leaves two on-field spots that will have to be shared by a receiver, Moore and a running back of choice – Peyton Hillis, anyone?
The team appears to be struggling with Moore and his lack of run-blocking; they do not want his insertion into a formation to signal to the opposition that a pass play is on its way. This is where Alex Smith comes in – a superb blocker, Smith just leaves a lot to be desired in terms of receiving and (apparently) tackling. The issue becomes whether Shurmur and his offense should pay the best players which could lead to the highest rate of success (i.e. Smith in run situations), or attempt to create mismatches which can lead to even bigger plays if executed correctly.
Splitting Moore out wide is an obvious option, negating any real liability on the blocking front and – more often than not – providing a mismatch with a small defensive back lined up across from the 6-foot-6-inch end. Making Moore a part of two-end sets could provide a linebacker in coverage or confuse the opposing defense into thinking a pass is coming and allow for Hilis to do his thing on an unsuspecting front seven. Throw motion into the mix and look out as Shurmur and Colt McCoy should have options galore, especially when teams combat No. 89 with a nickel back.
Naturally, Moore’s bread-and-butter resides in the red zone. Unfortunately, it’s getting into said zone that has become a bit of an issue as of late. Save for a huge drive against the Miami Dolphins and the garbage time touchdown to Watson against the Titans, it will be nearly three weeks since the Browns have had a successful, elongated drive. Recall, both scores prior to Watson snag were huge field goals by Phil Dawson, both coming from way outside the 20-yard line.
Alas, whether Shurmur does have plans in place to get his playmakers involved or if this is merely coachspeak fueled by reporter questions remains to be seen. The Browns will get back to work for the next several days before boarding the cross-country flight to Oakland where they will take on an emotionally-charged Raiders team; playing in the black hole will not help matters much. Here’s hoping that Moore’s frustration last week comes with an ultimate reward. That reward: a head coach who realizes what he has in his players and is willing to admit mistakes and make the necessary changes even if said change involves the demotion of a third-year, high-second-round receiver from The Ohio State University.