So I was around the house the other day. The St. Louis Rams-San Francisco 49ers game from Week 10, in which the 49ers won 23-20 in overtime, was being replayed on TV.
I thought to myself, "I want to know more about Shurmur other than what we've heard and read. So let's see what we got."
First of all, I understand this is a small sample size. I merely wanted to get indications of what we could expect with Pat Shurmur as the head coach/offensive coordinator.
I was surprised at what I saw.
- It all starts with formations. This was key for me. With the lackluster offense Browns' fans have come to expect, how creative Shurmur was/is offensively became a priority.
Of the 78 offensive plays St. Louis had during the game, only 6 came out of a pro-set (I-formation, one tight end, two wide receivers).
First, I began to understand why Stanford fullback Owen Marecic was drafted and a why Lawrence Vickers' resigning hasn't been a priority. St. Louis had a spot for Mike Karney on that team, but he was rarely used (at least in this case). So a pure blocking fullback has little value in the new offense. A bit sad to say since it seems everyone loves Vickers, but that will get me to my point about Marecic here in a bit.
- Most of the offensive sets were either ace personnel (two tights, two wide receivers, one back) or three wide receivers. There was a lot of two tight end sets and they were used in a variety of ways. There were a lot of plays with one tight end in the slot (Moore or Cameron?). One was generally in line (Watson?). Or the move-tight end was generally used in motion or on the wing (Moore or Cameron again?).
It's easy to see why Cameron was drafted. I wouldn't be surprised if the team kept four tight ends on the roster. Plus, that also plays into the versatility of a Marecic. If he can catch the ball out of the backfield, block out of different formations, and provide flexibility, he is a better option than Vickers.
Another reason as to why....
- Steven Jackson wasn't asked to block, despite a heavy passing offense. He was a target and running a route on basically every passing down. If the team wanted to hold someone in to block, they generally did it with one of the extra tight ends. Hillis will likely be used in a similar way since he has similar skills as Jackson both running and catching the football.
- Don't expect run, run, pass like Browns' fans have grown accustomed. Shurmur often came out in a spread short passing attack on first and second down.
I can see why he likes Colt McCoy. McCoy may not be on the same plane physically as Bradford, but the entire offense was drop, back foot hit, and the ball was gone. It was all about accuracy and timing. Plus a lot of shotgun. (by the way, Bradford's accuracy down field really wasn't that good.)
If that first read down field wasn't open, it was being checked down often and effectively. Check downs to the running backs or slot receiver will be a very large part of the offense.
Which gets me to....
- Danny Amendola is a much better football player than he is given credit. He's not to far behind Wes Welker. I wouldn't put him in the same category per se, but he does a great job avoiding contact in the slot and running routes. This position will likely be crucial in Cleveland's offense, but they don't have a comparable talent to play a similar role.
And let's not just assume here that Amendola caught 89 passes by doing simple crossing routes or stop routes, much like what was seen with Chansi Stuckey. In fact, he threatened the seam and became a legitimate target.
- Furthermore, the underneath routes so many expect to be coming weren't really there. Yes, the slants and stick routes were. But, and maybe this was due to the talent on St. Louis' roster, but the Rams ran deeper runs than I expected. Maybe they were also run-off routes to all allow for the more intermediate throws.
- There was also some creativity with the talent. Amendola ran two end arounds in this contest alone. So, maybe some Josh Cribbs love will be seen along the way.
In the end, the offense did sputter at points. Could it have been construed as conservative as we've seen lately? Sure. But there was a lot more imagination to it than what we've seen in Cleveland other than 2007.
In all honesty, I like what Shurmur showed. I think there are a lot of the same weaknesses he had in St. Louis that he may have to work around here in Cleveland and he's shown he can. So we'll see. I thought it would be interesting just to see what they had last year and what we might expect next year.