Browns Offense Getting into Motion, Literally

The Cleveland Browns offense struggled last year. With a new offensive coordinator they look to get into motion, quite literally, more often. How can that help the team? We take a look.

Most Cleveland Browns fans are concerned about the teams offense. While the Browns have attempted to build a great defense, offensive line and run game, the attention always seems to turn back to the quarterback, wide receivers and tight ends.

Those Fantasy Football positions, the glamour ones at least, are intriguing. They are also the easiest for fans to see and understand because they are often separated from the mass of humanity near the line of scrimmage. It can be hard to get a grasp on how a running back missed a cutback lane or should have bounced the ball outside.

It is the same reason that tackles are singled out more than guards and centers by fans. Why cornerbacks and linebackers in coverage are scrutinized while the guys in the trenches are given passes. There are still fans who believe Phil Taylor has played great the past few seasons even though the Browns run defense has been atrocious and Pro Football Focus has given him poor grades.

That brings us back to the offense and something somewhat new that we can expect to see a lot of this year: Motion. Motion from an offense isn't new, I remember the Broncos using Rod Smith in motion a ton. It is somewhat new for the Browns though as we have seen very little of it, besides a motion out of the backfield, in the past few seasons.

The Browns use of motion was noted on the Browns site during OTAs:

Motion, motion, motion. An educated estimate showed about 70 percent of plays called by offensive coordinator John DeFilippo had either a tight end or wide receiver moving around, and some plays had up to four players shifting around.

“We are going to install a lot,” Pettine said. “We are going to throw a lot at our guys and see what we can retain. And then we’ll see back as coaches and look at here’s what we do well and go.”

There were multiple swing passes to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins out of the backfield, a heavy dose of tight end Rob Housler in the middle of the field, a bunch of sets that had Hartline and Dwayne Bowe lined up right on top of each other and, no surprise, a ton of running the ball. Terrance West, Glenn Winston and newcomer Luke Lundy all ripped off significant gains.

Mary Kay Cabot also noted that the Browns offense will feature a lot of motion:

It will likely feature plenty of shifting and motion, and some elements of the West Coast offense and its short passing game. But DeFilippo also wants to push the ball down the field to the extent he can.

So how does motion help the Browns offense and what players can it benefit the most?

First, motion helps the Browns identify more of what the defense is doing. A man defense will shift directly with the player in motion while a zone defense will stay in place more often. This will help Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel with their pre-snap reads.

Second, this helps the offense create, and the QB identify, possible mismatches. The Browns can motion a receiver from inside out to simply switch which corner is covering which guy. Getting a slot guy on the Browns bigger receiver, or vice versa, can be beneficial.

Third, motion helps receivers start their patterns sooner and with some momentum that is lacking when standing still. Think about getting a running start instead of having to start out of the blocks in a 100 yard dash, which would likely win? The motion can also setup the covering player to assume which direction the receiver is going. This gives the Browns more opening to use that against the defense, especially with option routes.

When talking option routes, starting with Andrew Hawkins is always a good place. Hawk excited Browns fans last year with his shifty moves and his ability to create space all over the field. Putting Hawk in motion almost seems unfair. He can setup his release moves, explode off the line and generally create more space.

Dwayne Bowe, the Browns "#1" receiver, can also take advantage of motion offense. Much like a power forward getting in position for a rebound, think Tristan Thompson Cavs fans, Bowe can use motion to get himself in position to box out defenders for the ball. Bowe can keep his momentum going and get in front of the corner, providing a wide target for McCown or Manziel. Easy first down conversions can be had this way.

Taylor Gabriel, who is sized like a slot receiver but plays more like an outside guy, can use motion to get his speed up quicker. Wheel routes, which look like simple flare routes to the sideline to start, can be explosive with TG coming in motion.

Brian Hartline, Rob Housler and the rest of the Browns pass catchers will also benefit from the introduction of motion to the offense. It can also help in the Browns running game. Bringing a receiver in motion can put him in position to "wham" block a linebacker at the end of the line, springing the back for a long outside gain.

There are downfalls to the use of motion, as Pettine alluded to. The Browns are throwing a lot at them to see what they can maintain. Motion adds another layer to think about and to know. Some players could struggle with that.

Finally motion can create penalties for the offense. Whether it is two players in motion, not enough (or too many) guys lined up on the line of scrimmage or false starts, the more motion, the more possibility for mistakes and penalties. Pettine will have no interest in any of those.

What do you think about the Browns offense getting into motion?


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