The Cleveland Browns made a smart choice by hiring Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, confirmed today by NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. Turner will change the Browns offense to a vertical attack that could get more from the trio of Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon.
A key tenant to Turner's system is the vertical passing game. As a disciple of the "Air Coryell" offense, Turner's fondness for stretching the field, could be a major boon for Weeden.
The first-year quarterback often struggled in the high-percentage version of the West Coast offense favoured by ex-head coach Pat Shurmur. Part of the problem was that the Browns were forcing a polished, timing-based system on a relatively raw quarterback.
The West Coast passing game commonly calls for shorter, quicker pass drops. Quarterbacks who practice it must display excellent footwork. These mechanics must be combined with precise, touch passing into the underneath zones.
Weeden's short game never really developed and as a result, Shurmur's schemes quickly became stagnant. What Weeden often did succeed at was stretching a defense deep, particularly to youngster Josh Gordon. The former Baylor ace has already developed a niche as a feared deep threat.
That's an attribute Turner won't be shy about using. With the Chargers, he routinely had Philip Rivers fire vertical strikes to the likes of Vincent Jackson and then later Malcom Floyd. Gordon and the inconsistent, but talented Greg Little, give Turner two big speedsters to build his deep passing game around.
He'll also rely on altering Weeden's mechanics to include deeper pass drops. It won't be uncommon to see Browns' quarterbacks utilising plenty of five and seven-step drops next season.
Turner's fondness for flooding the field with vertical routes also opens up the intermediate zones for the tight end. Think about how Antonio Gates has exploited the middle for years with the Chargers. A more dated example would be Jay Novacek working the underneath for the Dallas Cowboys in the early-90's.
Turner's predilection for using tight ends this way could make the position a priority in free agency or the draft. Benjamin Watson is starting to slow and Alex Smith has never reached his potential.
Jordan Cameron is the closest to a Turner-type tight end currently on the roster. What the Browns need is an explosive player, with the angular frame to be used both in-line and from the slot.
Turner's hiring is also excellent news for Trent Richardson. He can expect to be featured in more of a north-south style running game. Turner usually relies on zone blocking, but tends to trust bigger linemen to execute it.
Unlike zone-running teams like the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins, Turner is not relying on stretch runs and cutback plays. His ground attacks are usually built on interior counters, run behind mobile power that wins at the line and then overwhelms in the open field.
With Joe Thomas and Alex Mack already in the fold and a young rotation, Tuner has the makings of such a line. That should encourage a bigger workload for Richardson.
There were times this season when it was easy to bemoan the lack of carries given to 2012's third overall pick. Given how Turner featured the likes of Emmitt Smith, LaDanian Tomlinson and Ryan Mathews, Richardson should get the ball more often in 2013.
Turner's head coaching struggles will make some feel nervous. However, landing him as offensive coordinator is something of a coup for the Browns. He gives the Browns a proven play-caller, with a scheme that has yielded positive results at multiple stops in the NFL.
Turner has also worked with new head coach Rob Chudzinski in the past, when the pair were in San Diego. His scheme fits the style of offense Chudzinski has favoured as an assistant.
Chudzinski's best Carolina Panthers offense would attack deep to Steve Smith, work underneath to Greg Olsen and rely on a powerful rushing attack. The two play-callers fit perfectly.
Turner has always struggled with the odd dichotomy of being a hesitant head coach, yet a bold coordinator. As a play-caller his best attribute is trusting his skill players by implementing a simple formula for their success.
In Dallas, that formula involved Michael Irvin working the outside, Novacek the underneath and Alvin Harper going deep. That was the aerial complement to heavy doses of Smith on the ground.
In San Diego, it was Jackson stretching the field vertically, Gates dominating the underneath and Tomlinson producing on the ground.
The Browns have talent at the skill positions, particularly in Richardson and Gordon, to adopt a similar mode of attack. If Weeden remains the choice as quarterback, Turner could be the ideal coach to design a game more suited to what the 29-year-old does best.
A quick turnaround on offense is the only to ensure a recovery for the Browns as a whole. Turner could be the perfect choice for that turnaround.
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