When the Cleveland Browns first unveiled Pat Shurmur as the head coach for the 2011 NFL season, many fans began to wonder what the direction of the offense would be moving forward.
Shurmur spent the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams and controlled a different style of offense than what the Browns have seen in several years. Cleveland finally climbed their way back into football relevance by riding on the legs of Peyton Hillis and capitalizing on key throws by Colt McCoy. However, one would have to wonder if Shurmur's new offensive scheme will actually hurt the Browns during the 2011 season.
Throughout Shurmur's tenure with the Rams, Steven Jackson was the front-runner in a mediocre offense. Jackson was forced to carry the Rams franchise due to a complete lack of talent in 2009 and the growing pains of Sam Bradford in 2010. Shurmur worked the rushing game relentlessly as Jackson gained a total of 2,657 rushing yards in 31 games.
In Cleveland, the fans, as well as the organization, are worried about the well-being of Peyton Hillis and the rushing attack for the 2011 season. With the type of workload that Jackson saw in St. Louis, Hillis will likely be beaten and bruised when Cleveland enters the toughest part of the 2011 season.
Much of the success for the Browns will rest on the arm of Colt McCoy and the ability of Shurmur to adjust to Cleveland's offensive strengths. McCoy has shown, in his short time with the Browns, that he can be an accurate passer but needs time to survey the field and pick his targets. With the west coast system that Cleveland is expected to run, McCoy should be playing to his strengths and using short passes to build sustained drives.
Hillis will simply remain a question mark until the 2011 season has ended. Shurmur said that he intends to "run a very hard rushing style and impose a physical rushing attack" and will likely use Hillis more in the passing game than Eric Mangini and Brian Daboll did in 2010.
Shurmur will need to find an offensive balance between the west coast system that he wishes to implement and the offensive playbook that Cleveland used one season ago. If that mix can be determined early in 2011, Cleveland may be a tough team to beat during the course of the season.