Same old Browns?

Yesterday’s loss was naturally disappointing, but hearing guys like Tony Grossi say that these are the “same old Browns” is just ridiculous.

First, it’s one game against a team that has Super Bowl talent. They got beat by the best running back in the NFL, and they held him in check in the first half. The Vikings made good adjustments and with the Browns offense folding in the second half the defense was put in a tough spot.

Next, the defense is completely new. The Browns got great pressure and they got four sacks. The vanilla defense from the Crennel years is gone. Kamerion Wimbley looks like a real player again, and Shaun Rogers was also a stud again. Also, we saw the cornerbacks playing the receivers very tightly. I thought I was looking at Dixon and Minnifield from the 1980’s. That was very refreshing.

The offense was a problem, and Brady Quinn looked terrible. We can’t draw too many conclusions after just one game, particularly against a tough Vikings defense. That said, he needs to bounce back and start looking like a pro quarterback very quickly. Hopefully he’ll get better with time, but if he doesn’t make real progress by week 4, they need to take a look at Anderson.

It was, however, refreshing to see them run the no-huddle offense. They also introduced a Wildcat formation with Josh Cribbs, though they made a mistake running it twice in the red zone, particularly on the one yard line. Why couldn’t they run a QB sneak with Quinn?

Things change dramatically from week to week on the NFL. The Browns have a new regime and a new starting quarterback, so drawing the Vikings in week one was a tough one. Next week they have the Broncos, we were lucky to beat the lowly Bengals yesterday, so the Browns have a chance to show what they can do next week.

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Using the no-huddle offense

One of the frustrations in the years since the Browns returned has been the complete lack of imagination on offense. This was true with most of the coaches we had.

Butch Davis was probably the worst. Say what you want about Tim Couch, but he excelled when running a no-huddle offense that permitted him to move around and improvise.

Of course, Davis would never throw in the no-huddle during a game to mix things up, even if he had a QB that might excel in that scenario. Romeo was generally clueless, as he hired Maurice Carthon and then had to work with Chud. Last year it became obvious that the regime couldn’t make real adjustments on offense, and they let Jerome Harrison waste away on the bench.

Now, this season, we have Eric Mangini, who just might be more aggressive than many expect on offense. He seems to take the same approach that Bill Belichick learned after he left Cleveland – being predictable on offense gives the defense an advantage.

Here’s Mangini’s answer in his press conference to a question about using the no-huddle offense.

(On if the Browns will use the no huddle this season) – “I like to have the ability to go in and out of it at any point in a game. If you want to start off a half with it, you want to change the tempo with it, if you’re getting a team that maybe is going to disguise a lot, you want to take that away.

We’ve used it for all those different reasons. Coaching against it, as a defensive coordinator and a defensive backs coach, it does add some pressure to the defense. It forces you to think through tendencies quicker. Now it’s second-and-seven, instead of being able to look down at your sheet, get a reminder, you have your calls, you have your things you’re thinking of.

They’re getting to the line of scrimmage. You have to honor the fact they can run a play right now. It speeds that up. It speeds the communication. It speeds up the adjustment. The nice thing is, you can get to the line with 30 seconds left, 25 seconds left and then just assess, change the play and do whatever you want to do. I like it for those reasons.”

(On how the quarterbacks have done with the no huddle) – “Good, we’ve been running it, really, since the first day of OTAs and we run it every day in practice. We do different periods of it. It’s just second nature, go in and out of it, everybody’s used to it. Defensively, it’s great work, because if you face two or three teams that do that, and that’s all they do, and they do it a lot better than you do it, it’s hard.”

Can you imagine Romeo or Butch Davis giving that answer?

Mangini seems to understand the importance of creating tactical advantages. He wants to keep the defenses guessing, and he wants to be able to execute the offense from a variety of schemes, including the no-huddle offense.

They seem to be taking the same approach on defense. They’ve even discussed using the 46 defense at times during the season, including some 4-man fronts as well.

I’m starting to look forward to this season.

Shape up and shut up

This was the message sent by the new regime to Shaun Smith, but apparently he didn’t listen. After dogging it during practice on Friday, the Browns released Shaun Smith today.

We’re definitely seeing something new with the Eric Mangini regime, and even skeptics like Tony Grossi are noticing a big difference with the new regime. Romeo Crennel’s camp was a pleasure cruise next to the tough, disciplined camp run by Mangini.

Also, Mangini doesn’t take shit from players, so it’s no surprise that they let Smith go. He was always known more for his mouth than his performance.

Listen to how Mangini talks about another lineman, and you get the idea of what kinds of players he likes, and why guys like Smith won’t last long.

With Smith gone, second-year lineman Ahtyba Rubin, the Browns’ sixth-round pick in 2008 out of Iowa State, will most likely see more action behind Rogers and in the line rotation.

“I really like Rubin,” said Mangini. “Rubin is just a consistent guy. He comes in, works like crazy, is stout against the run, and has really improved his hand placement. I like all the things I’ve seen from him.”

None of us will know whether Mangini’s approach will lead to success on the field until we see this team in action, but the renewed emphasis on discipline and execution sure sounds nice after the Crennel fiasco. At the very least, we might finally have a team that we can respect, as opposed to the comedy of errors we’ve witnessed for years.

In the long run, if Mangini puts together a hard-nosed, disciplined team, the fans will give them time to grow into a contender.