New Dogs, New Tricks: Playbook Changes Coming for the Cleveland Browns
For the fourth time in ten years, a new regime has come to Cleveland in attempts to create a new look for the Browns.
After spending last year watching an offense that couldn't score coupled with a defense that could do everything except tackle, a new look is about all Browns fans can pray for this season.
However, when looking at both the staff and players new coach Eric Mangini has brought in with him this offseason, its safe to say the Browns will be seeing some significant playbook changes in 2009.
What kind of changes will they be? Well, let's take a look
The one thing people will remember about a Romeo Crennel coached defense was the inability to effectively rush the quarterback.
It may have been due to dropping way too many defenders back into coverage, or perhaps an overall lack of talent and depth in the front seven. Either way, the opposing team's quarterback always seemed to have the cleanest jersey on the field.
While Mangini is a big fan of running a relatively uncomplicated defense, new coordinator Rob Ryan is a different story.
Ryan is known for creating a very aggressive defense, which will likely lead to a few more blitzing schemes in the Browns defensive playbook. This would be a welcome change in Cleveland, since it was such a rare occurrence to see any of the Browns defenders in the opponent's backfield last year.
More pressure on the quarterback will also help the defensive backs, as they won't be required to cover receivers for 15-20 seconds each play.
Unfortunately, the issue at hand won't so much be what Rob Ryan will try to do with the defense, but whether or not he has enough talent to do it effectively.
The truth is the Browns defense is made up of Shaun Rogers, former Jets backups, and newly drafted rookies. A lack of standout talent certainly leaves a lot of question marks hanging over this side of the ball, and Ryan will definitely have his hands full as he attempts to give the Browns a little more bite to their bark.
I anticipate the Browns will spend another year attempting to solve the riddle that is outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.
Wimbley will be entering his fourth season in Cleveland and he has yet to produce anything close to the numbers of his rookie campaign, where he posted eleven sacks. Look for Mangini and Ryan to try two things when it comes to reigniting the former Florida State standout.
First, expect coaches to work with Kamerion Wimbley in developing more pass rushing moves.
Since starting his career in the NFL, Wimbley has relied solely on his speed to try and get into the backfield. He could be a very talented linebacker if he had a wider variety of moves when it comes to shedding tackles. Rob Ryan will no doubt create a decent amount of plays which send Wimbley on a blitz, but not before trying to give him more arsenal to work with.
Second, I believe Ryan and Mangini will concoct some plays which focus on the right side of the offensive line, in attempts to find another solid pass rusher in second year linebacker Alex Hall or rookie David Veikune.
The coaching staff likes the potential of Hall, and is very impressed with the speed and tenacity Veikune has displayed in rookie mini-camps. Rob Ryan will most likely try various plays which test the ability of these two players because, if he finds solid talent in either of them, he can force offensive coordinators to spread the protection out. This, in turn, frees up Kamerion Wimbley from the double team and gives him a better chance of pressuring the quarterback.
While Cleveland's defense certainly won't scare anyone from the get-go, Eric Mangini has done a solid job at giving the team depth, which will significantly help Ryan if he's still passionate about being aggressive on defense.
As of now, each position on the Browns' defense is at least two to three players deep. What this means is the Browns can afford to blitz more often because they'll have fresh legs to rotate on and off the field.
Look for Mangini and Ryan to keep pressuring the edges with Wimbley, Hall, and Veikune, while also trying to send inside linebackers like D'Qwell Jackson and Kaluka Maiava through the holes Shaun Rogers opens up on the offensive line.
One thing Eric Mangini and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll have in common is their penchant for a short-range, game-managing offense. This would explain why Mangini originally wanted to keep Chad Pennington in New York instead of signing Brett Favre last year.
Regardless, in looking at the players Mangini has brought to Cleveland's offense, there's no doubt he will continue to create a dip-and-dunk personality with the Browns.
The first reason for this offensive style is the fact that the Browns really don't have enough weapons to fill their playbook with a bunch of downfield routes.
Braylon Edwards is really the only legitimate threat at receiver in Cleveland, and his status with the team is still foggy at this point. Along with Edwards, the Browns signed Mike Furrey and David Patten, two capable, yet aged veterans who won't exactly give defenses fits. Josh Cribbs can certainly play as a wideout, but with limited action in this position, his reliability isn't defined just yet.
Since rookie Brian Robiskie has been deemed one of the most "NFL-ready" receivers in this years draft class, Mangini will most likely get him ready for a decent amount of action in his first year.
Problem is, since one of Robiskie's issues is a lack of blazing speed, he can't be relied on as a Hail Mary threat either. And while fellow rookie wideout Mohamed Massaquoi caught quite a few bombs from former Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, the coaching staff seems to be focusing more on his development as of now.
So, while the Browns have a lot of receivers to work with, there simply isn't enough talent to spread the field with them.
Because of this, look for Brian Daboll to create a run-first offense.
Daboll will most likely use some variety with his running backs. Jamal Lewis will still be used the most, but Jerome Harrison should be utilized much more than last season, where his impressive runs were constantly rewarded with a decrease in playing time.
Also, many draft analysts believe rookie half back James Davis was a steal, and with a solid training camp, he could see the field more often than not.
If Brady Quinn is ultimately selected as the Browns starting quarterback, Daboll will no doubt work with his short-range passing game, but might also use his mobility as well.
In his three starts last season, Quinn showed he could effectively move around outside of the pocket. Every now and then, he would run bootlegs which were usually good for at least five yards or so.
These plays will most likely have a place in Daboll's playbook, and might very well give Quinn an edge over the relatively immobile Derek Anderson when it comes to the upcoming quarterback competition.
In the end, it's safe to say the Cleveland Browns will be seeing a significant amount of changes in their playbooks this season.
At this point, however, it's too early to tell whether these changes will work effectively, or just fall apart like those of the previous regimes.
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