BEREA– Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is confident that the players will grasp his offense by the time the Browns open the season on Sept. 8 against the Dolphins at First Energy Stadium.
“That’s the challenge,” Turner said in a session with the media prior to the start of training camp Tuesday. “There’s a lot of things we can’t control, but if we can get the practice time in, our guys can stay healthy, our guys can make the kind of progress they made during OTAs and minicamps, I think we can be ready to be a good offense when the season starts.”
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However, Turner said there are some challenges still ahead in training camp.
“But we have a lot of work to do and we have a lot of guys that have to get a lot better in terms of understanding what we’re doing,” he said. “Then the better you get at what you’re doing, the faster you play. and that’s what our goal is, to be playing at a real high rate of speed, a real high level when the season starts.”
The success of Turner’s offense will be predicated partly by the play of two main cogs in Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. The latter missed most of the OTAs and minicamp installation on the field of the system being held out with a lower leg injury.Turner isn’t concerned that RIchardson is behind.
“I think the running back position is a little bit unique,” he said. “Those guys rely so much on their physical skills, their natural ability. I think he can overcome the time he missed. He’s sharp. The mental part was no problem. He’ll get reps. He’ll get his share of reps. The best runners I’ve been around, they start off and stay within the system and they let their natural ability do a lot of the damage. Their natural ability is a lot of reason for their success.”
Turner said he’s not concerned with over loading Richardson in training camp.
“I don’t think he’ll take a beating at all in our training camp practices,” he said. “I think Coach and our trainers and our doctors have put together a really good plan for Trent. I think he’s going to get as much work as he needs to get ready and then we’ll make sure he’s fresh and healthy, but he’s going to get his share of the work in this camp like every player. When I started this thing off, you have to put a lot of time in. It takes a lot of work to be ready to play in this league. He needs to go through the same process everyone else does.”
Turner knows the NFL is becoming more and more a passing league, but if Richardson is the offense’s best weapon, he could envision him carrying the ball 300 times, if healthy.
“Obviously the trend in the league is to not do that, but I think it depends on your team and everyone around it,” he said. “If that player is your best player, then I think it’s probably a good thing to have him in the game and give him the ball. So I would hope Trent would have that many carries. That means he’s playing healthy and playing at a pretty high level if we give him the ball that much.”
It’s well documented the success that Turner’s system has produced in terms of running backs and he thinks Richardson has the chance to be mentioned among the top running backs.
“Just watching him and seeing him against us when I came here in October (with the Chargers) and then watching the tape, yeah, he’s that type of runner,” he said. “Obviously, he was the third pick in the draft. I think he has a lot of great days ahead of him. I always have a problem comparing players because each guy has his own unique style, but I think he’s capable of doing great things.”
Maybe more important to the Browns offensive success will be the play of the quarterback. Weeden is expected to start the season for the second-straight year for the Browns. Turner was asked if he expects Weeden to make a big jump from his rookie season to year two.
“To me, it’s totally based on number one, the guy, and then the situation he was in and so many people get caught up in where a guy is,” he said. “A lot of it depends on the situation he’s put in, the offensive line, the playmakers around him, how good a defensive football team you have, there’s so many things that go into it.
“But I think Brandon is fortunate,” he said. “He’s had the experience of starting 15 games in this league, that’s a plus when you start working with a player who hasn’t played a lot. and then I think he’s taken to what we’re doing and I expect him to play at a high level.”
Turner documented the success of some of the quarterbacks that have played well in his system.
“This system is really a quarterback-friendly system and I know guys look to a year and say, well, this guy in this system had this many turnovers or whatever, but I go all the way back to Jim Everett, guys that people forget. We had Gus Frerotte go to the Pro Bowl in 1996, Trent Green had a breakout year in 1998. Brad Johnson took us to a playoff win and threw for 4,000 yards in ’99.
“I can go on, Alex Smith, we’ve had a lot of quarterbacks play at an awful high level, and we’ve had some guys not have great years in this system, because that’s part of this league,” he said. “But I think the system’s proven, I think our players are buying into it and I think our fans will enjoy watching what we do. because we want to be productive, we want to be explosive and we want to score points. and that’s obviously why you come to games.”
Turner’s system utilizes the shotgun formation, something that is expected to help Weeden since he played mostly out of the shotgun in college at Oklahoma State.
“I think the thing the shotgun has done for some of these guys, and everyone thinks the shotgun is the runners, but it’s (Peyton) Manning and (Tom) Brady and Philip Rivers,” he said. “I think those guys are helped by being in the shotgun because it gets them away from the rush a little bit and this league has become a pressure league, and it’s such a league that’s based on trying to disrupt the quarterback.
“Being in the shotgun will help our quarterback,” he said. “So, yeah, we want to be in the shotgun a percentage of the time. Then the test for us and the goal for us is to make sure we’re balanced and that we can run the ball and throw the ball out of the shotgun and we’ll be under center when it’s appropriate.”
There was some speculation that Turner was instrumental in helping the front office decide to go with Weeden for a second season.
“It starts with Chud,” Turner said. “He and Joe (Banner) spent a lot of time together and we looked at a lot of quarterbacks. I think the combination of what we felt about Brandon and then what the options were, the alternatives. and obviously, we helped our quarterback situation a great deal getting Jason and getting Brian. I like our quarterback situation, and I’m going to say it again, we have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be, but I think we can be successful with this group.”