July 31, 2014

In 2013 the Browns are betting on defense and hoping for offense

Kruger jerseyThe off-season isn’t over, but it’s not time to look at what the Browns have put together to try and figure out how they’re going to compete in 2013. When you’re caught up in all the details of free agency and the draft it’s much more difficult to get the overall picture, but now more than ever it seems readily apparent what the Browns are trying to do. It’s also apparent what this team could look like in 2013 as they look to improve on their 5-11 season with a whole new coaching staff and brand new looks on offense and defense.

It starts with the defense. The Browns spent almost all of their resources in free agency and the draft on defense. The combination of switching schemes and the defensive performance in 2012 demanded some serious attention. The Browns were second-worst in the NFL in terms of number of offensive plays that opposing teams ran against them. The Browns allowed opposing teams to run 1095 plays showing an inability to get off the field. They gave up the fifth-most number of first downs and the 14th most points. The Browns were truly middle of the road in terms of pressuring the quarterback with their 38 sacks and 6.0% sack rate.1

So take that group of defenders, put them with an aggressive coordinator, add Desmond Bryant, Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves and sixth overall pick Barkevious Mingo and all of a sudden I think we’ve seen pretty much exactly where the Browns hope to be able to compete in 2013. The fact that they signed guys pretty much still in their 20′s isn’t a bad sign either as long as they work out as players in orange and brown. So, what about the secondary and the Browns’ seeming lack of attention to safety and corner? Lombardi said yesterday that they could survive with a young secondary as long as the pass rush is good.

But what about the offense?

The Browns punted on a couple of draft picks and decided to bring back an offense that was 19th in yards, 29th in first downs, 22nd in the number of overall offensive plays, and 24th in points? You’re telling me that coming into the 2013 season with that group isn’t giving up on 2013?

I’ll admit it’s a much tougher sell. I like that the Browns made a trade for Davone Bess. I like the young players like Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, Greg Little and potentially even Jordan Cameron and Travis Benjamin. I like the offensive line despite some questions about who will win the guard position battles. All that being said, I’d be lying if I said to you there were any sure things on this offensive side of the ball. Probably Joe Thomas, Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz, but that’s really it. Everyone else is too young and / or too questionable to project.

That’s where I think the Browns are hoping on offense. They’re hoping that Brandon Weeden can make strides in a new offense that accentuates his strengths. They’re hoping that Davone Bess can provide stability to a young and up and coming receiving corps. They’re hoping that Greg Little and even more so, Josh Gordon, can make jumps from potential to actual greatness. Nowhere are they hoping more than they are with Jordan Cameron who might be the most questionable depth chart leader on the entire team. Most of all, it seems that the Browns would only hope this hard with such a young crew of offensive players if three conditions were met.

1.  They believe in the offensive minds of Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner
2.  They couldn’t have done better in terms of upgrading (IE QB) without sacrificing
3.  They believe that some or most of these young players have a real future

And that’s the important thing to watch on as a fanbase that wants to keep the front office accountable. Yesterday, Lombardi was quoted as saying that “the most critical thing is correctly evaluating our team. [You] don’t cut a player before you know him.” And after evaluating the offense, the Browns have chosen to enter 2013 with a young offense with question marks while definitively attempting to bolster the pass rush on defense.

Just as the front office is hoping for that offense to continue to develop, I hope they’re right when they say that the moves they’ve made haven’t sacrificed the 2013 season.

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Footnotes:

  1. Sack rate is the number of sacks divided by pass attempts + sacks []
  • BenRM

    Besides bringing in guards or a fullback, what else should the Browns have done on offense? (And c’mon, are you REALLY going to lose your mind over guards and fullbacks?)

    - There draft had close to no offensive skill players worth having.
    - Except Eifert. Does TE count as a skill position now?
    - They signed two veteran WRs.
    - Our other two young WRs look promising.
    - Our RB should be a stud.
    - We probably have among the best LT-C-RT combos in the league.
    - Like it or not, it makes sense for Weeden to play this year.
    - Oh and in case you picked “not” they signed a competent back-up QB.

    I hear the criticisms all the time, but no one really breaks it down (except for here). Some people are so committed to being down on the Browns that they ignore the facts of the situation.

  • Garry_Owen

    Yeah, but, let’s look at all the things the Browns DIDN’T do this off-season:

    1) They didn’t figure out a way to woo any of these guys from their current teams: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, etc. The list goes on and on.

    2) They didn’t construct the time machine that they promised to construct in order to bring any of these guys onto the team: Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Bernie Freaking Kosar, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice. I mean, the list goes on and on. No O.J. Simpson, even.

    3) They didn’t take Jim Brown up on his offer to improve our stable of “average” RBs by signing him to a 2-year contract or, barring that, fulfill the promise of constructing him that robotic spider body/exoskeleton so that he could play every offensive position.

    4) The didn’t “pay da man.”

    5) They didn’t ask the Rams for a mulligan on the blind auction last year for Robert Griffin the Freaking Third.

    Open your eyes, sheeple!

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    >>>are you REALLY going to lose your mind over guards and fullbacks?>>>

    have you seen the screen passes last couple years?

  • RyInCbus

    Without looking it up, can you name the guards and fullbacks we had when Chud was here in ’07? Cuz that’s the last time I think we ran a successful screen.

  • BenRM

    Lord, I love me some sheeple

  • Mike E

    This is Cleveland haha, dont forget about Vickers-Gate from not so long ago! No resigning him set the Browns back a decade!

  • mgbode

    TE is the one very big question. Chud & Norv have both relied heavily on TEs in their careers. Campbell has relied heavily on TEs in his career. We have no sure thing TEs on the roster.

    Both Chud and Norv have made TEs better before, so there is definitely some hope they can do it here, but that should be a legitimate gripe until they prove otherwise.

    (and yes, our OG play has been awful. I hope that some of the bodies they brought in play well and/or Greco continues his development).

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Vickers and Jamal Lewis were the FB and RB, but I can’t remember anyone but Steinbach and Joe Thomas on the offensive line.

  • mgbode

    you don’t remember Ryan Tucker? I’m sorry. The Great Ryan Tucker

  • mgbode

    I understand trying to forget McKinney and Shaffer though. And, I do believe that was the year of the epic injuries at OC in training camp, which ended in us trading for Hank Fraley.

    edit: looked it up. 2006 was the OC injury list. 2007 Fraley was still our starter though.

  • Harv 21

    exactly. Fans scream after watching the last game of the season “We went offense last draft, address the defense now! We need a better pass rush, we have no LBs for the 3-4, our secondary is awful!” So they sign and draft LBs, a corner, a safety. And right on cue, fans panic and scream “You ignored the offense!”

    As Craig says, the team is relying, I believe with good cause, on the established abilities of Norv Turner to install and improve the raw material drafted in ’12. And young players won’t all (gasp) instantaneously grasp enough nuances of the new system to run it smoothly by the time the season opens. Until they do, everyone’s a moron, Haslam’s a hayseed, Dolanz are stoopid and Cleveland is eternally cursed.

  • Old goat

    No doubt with weedhead as the qb, they will be lucky if they don’t set the record for losses and gooseegs

  • Old goat

    They wanted a qb that had a good work ethic, demonstrated leadership, was respected by the players and knew how to win. Funny they traded that one away and kept the pretty boy that ran like a girl when they faced the Steelers. Any Brown that is not in the morgue or ICU that does not suit up for the Steelers needs to be flogged and then sent down the road.

  • http://twitter.com/cbwilson25 chris wilson

    Great stuff as usual Craig. I think you hit the nail on the head, the Browns are hoping their defense is going to be such a strength that the offense doesn’t have to score many points to win.

    I find your frequent use of the word “hope” humorous because Lombardi used to recite the line “hope is not a plan” over and over on the BS report during his appearances over the years. Yet, it sounds like not only is hope a plan, it is Mr. Lombardi’s plan for the first year.

    I don’t disagree with this plan, it makes sense to see what the Browns have on offense (specifically with Weeden) this year, and then make moves to get new players next year.

  • BenRM

    what are you talking about???

  • mgbode

    go away steeler fan

  • mgbode

    i know. we didn’t trade Thaddeus Lewis.

  • HBS1

    It’s not just that they didn’t do anything positive for the offense. The fact is that they let Dawson, Cribbs, and Watson leave. These were: a great and reliable kicker; an explosive returner; a sure handed TE. They replaced these with a prayer, a hope and crossed fingers!!!