BEREA–With the hiring of Rob Chudzinski, Browns fans should have a sense of optimism that they will finally be able to potentially see a high-flying, modern day NFL offense as soon as next season. Also, by adding Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, the Browns should be able to get the most out of the players they currently have, with the potential to add more via free agency.
Turner said some things in his opening press conference that Browns fans want to hear.
“Having a feel for a lot of the players on the roster, the youth of the team was extremely exciting to me and it looked like a great opportunity to be with someone who, obviously we share a philosophy in terms of offensive football and the way you play football,” Turner said. “The biggest thing for me, you want to offensively be a team that is exciting. You want to be a team that the fans love to watch.
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“If you’re going to be that type of team, obviously you have to be able to score points, you have to be able to make explosive plays, big plays, you have to be a team that plays fast, plays hard, plays physical and I think it will show that our guys like to play football,” he said. “I think that is something that has always been conveyed in the way we play the game. I’m excited to be here and certainly excited to work with Rob.”
Even though it’s not saying much in comparison, the best offense the Browns have had since the return in 1999 was under Chudzinski in 2007. The Browns posted 5,621 total yards in 2007 with 3,726 in the passing game. The offense also put up 402 points. The total yards and points scored are the third-most in franchise history. In 2012, the Browns scored 302 points.
In 2011, in Chudzinski’s first year as offensive coordinator with the Panthers, the team set club records for total yards (6,237) just a year after the team experienced franchise lows.
The negative about Chudzinski’s offenses were in the second year of them. In 2008, the offense regressed and so it could have been said about last season’s Panther offense, the second year with Cam Newton. However, I believe most Browns fans would take at least one great year of offense first.
Turner pointed out that he and Chudzinski teamed up to have a potent offense in San Diego.
“That first year (Chudzinski) was with us we were 13-3 and we were a very, very productive offense,” Turner said. “We were in the top five in big plays in the league and we’ve always been very productive in terms of plays over 20 yards.
“The second year we were together we were first in the league in total offense and again, we were in the top four or five in terms of big plays.”
Let’s take a look at the key players in the Browns offense in 2007 and compare them to the players in those positions currently on the roster.
Derek Anderson—Anderson came out of nowhere and threw 29 touchdowns and threw for 3,787 yards. Anderson made it to the Pro Bowl as an alternate. Chudzinski put Anderson in an offense that allowed him to flourish. Anderson threw 19 interceptions and only completed 56.5 percent of his passes.
Brandon Weeden—Weeden had a less than sparkling rookie season, but wasn’t in an offense suited for him. It’s not a stretch to give Weeden the edge over Anderson in physical tools. Weeden actually had a higher completion percentage (57.4) than Anderson did. It is an unknown if the Browns new front office will commit to Weeden for another season or make a change at the position. Whatever they decide, they should be able to do better than Anderson.
Jamal Lewis—Lewis rushed for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns after being let go as a free agent with the Ravens. Clearly, his best years were behind him and the Ravens opted to not re-sign him. He was motivated to prove he was still a viable running back, but Chudzinski’s offense allowed him to produce.
Trent Richardson—The rookie played banged up all year and clearly has much more upside than Lewis did in 2007. Richardson accounted for 1,317 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. There’s no question that Richardson should produce as much or more than Lewis did in 2007. Turner pointed out that he has had five running backs lead the NFL in rushing in his coaching career.
Braylon Edwards—Edwards had a Pro Bowl season and looked like he was going to be the type of player perennially the Browns drafted third overall. Edwards caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns. However, he never had as good a season since.
Josh Gordon—Gordon emerged as a big play threat for the Browns as he averaged 16.1 yards a catch, including 5 touchdowns. He had 805 yards and had a much better rookie season than most would’ve expected. It is by no means a stretch to think that Gordon might be a better player over the long haul than Edwards was. The Chargers under Turner have been known for having deep threat, big play receivers every year.
Joe Jurevicius—Jurevicius was the under-the-radar guy in 2007. He was the key receiver on third down and caught 50 passes for 614 yards, including three touchdowns.
Greg Little—Although, as reliable as Jurevicius was in 2007, there is some hope that Little could be a very good receiver opposite of Gordon. Little led the Browns with 53 receptions for 647 yards (12.2 avg.), including four touchdowns. If Gordon can handle the role of being the number one receiver, Little could be used as Jurevicius was or a veteran go to receiver could be brought in the off-season to fill the role.
Kellen Winslow—Winslow also had a great year and the trio of Edwards, Winslow and Jurevicius all helped Anderson have his breakout season. Winslow led the team with 82 receptions for 1,106 yards and five touchdowns.
Jordan Cameron—The Browns don’t have a Winslow on the roster currently. However, Chudzinski is known as a tight end maker. He helped Antonio Gates go from a basketball player at Kent State to a Pro Bowl tight end while being the tight ends coach with the Chargers. He also worked with Winslow with the Browns and before that at Miami. If he can develop Cameron quickly, the Browns could have a nice option at tight end. Cameron averaged 11.3 yards a catch, including a long gain of 28 yards.
The Winslow of 2007 would be considered a better player than anyone the Browns have until proven otherwise. If the Browns don’t think Cameron is ready to be that guy, they can sign a play making tight end in free agency or acquire one through the draft.
2007 Offensive Line—The line in 2007 was made up of Joe Thomas and Kevin Shaffer at the tackle position. Eric Steinbach and Seth McKinney were the guards with Hank Fraley at center.
2013 Offensive Line—If no changes are made to the line, the Browns are expected to return Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz at tackles and Alex Mack at center. John Greco, Todd Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao are the guards and changes could be made to upgrade the guard position, but even if the Browns don’t make changes, the line is much better than it was in 2007. Thomas and Mack have been to the Pro Bowl and Schwartz showed enough promise to possibly merit the honor in future years.
Summary: The Browns have flailed offensively for many seasons and there is reason for optimism that the 2013 version of the Browns offense will have a chance to be much more explosive than it has been in a long, long time.
Think of that, we used the words ‘explosive’ and ‘Browns’ in the same sentence.