New Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner met with reporters today to discuss the outlook of the offense as it transitions from a West Coast system to his downfield, vertical passing game and power running scheme.
The Browns will open to training camp to the public Thursday with the first full-squad practice running from 4-6:30 p.m.
Below are highlights from the interview with Turner:
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said quarterback Brandon Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year's draft, has improved his mechanics this offseason by speeding up his feet while dropping back.
Has Turner noticed a change?
“I think his basic mechanics, I think what Chud is talking about, his basic mechanics aren't going to change a great deal,” Turner said. “But I think he's got more of a sense of urgency, and I think he's playing faster than he has and that comes with doing the same things over and over again and that comes with him having a better understanding of what he's doing.”
In Turner's experience with quarterbacks, do they usually make a major leap in their second season?
“To me, it’s totally based on No. 1, the guy, and then the situation he was in, and so many people get caught up in where a guy is,” Turner 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’s had the experience of starting  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. 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 ’96. Trent Green had a breakout year in ’98. 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. 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.”
What percentage will Turner use Weeden in the shotgun?
“I think the thing the shotgun has done for some of these guys, and everybody thinks the shotgun is the runners, but it’s [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady, Philip Rivers,” Turner 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, that being in the shotgun will help our quarterback. So, yeah, we want to be in the shotgun a percentage of the time, and 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.”
CEO Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi relied on Turner's advice about the decision to stick with Weeden this season.
What did Turner see in Weeden?
“For me, it starts with Chud,” Turner said. “And I appreciate you saying that and thinking that I have that much say, but it starts with Chud. He and Joe 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 [Campbell] and getting Brian [Hoyer]. So 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.”
Running back Trent Richardson missed part of organized team activities in May and the team’s entire mandatory minicamp in June because of a strained muscle in his right shin.
Will the missed time hurt Richardson’s ability to learn the new offense?
“I think the running back position is a little bit unique,” Turner 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.”
Does Turner need to hold back on Richardson’s workload at all in camp?
“I don’t think he’ll take a beating at all in our training camp practices,” Turner 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.”
Could Richardson have 300 carries this season or are times changing?
“Obviously the trend in the league is to not do that, but I think it depends on your team and everyone around it,” Turner 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.”
In terms of natural ability, how does Richardson stack up against other backs Turner has been around?
“Just watching him and seeing him against us when I came here in October [as head coach of the San Diego Chargers] and then watching the tape, yeah, he’s that type of runner,” Turner said. “Obviously he’s 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.”
The NFL has suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon for the first two game of the regular season for violating its substance-abuse policy.
How will the suspension affect Turner’s plan for training camp and the preseason?
“You get so many reps in training camp, I don't think it is a factor in what we'll do,” Turner said. “You always get the guys you have ready and whether we have five receivers active or six receivers active, you have to get them all ready to play and we've all been in situations where a guy turns an ankle the Friday before the opening game and you don't have him available and you don't call the game off. You go play, so we've got enough guys to get them ready to play, and we'll get Josh ready to play so he's ready when he comes back.”
What are the Browns’ plans at fullback?
“The beauty of this offense, I think, is that it is versatile enough that you have success with the players you have,” Turner said. “We've used a variety of different styles of fullback and have been very productive, and I can go all the way back into the mid-90s where we had a converted tailback playing fullback with the Redskins and Terry Allen rushed for 1,500 yards. We're going to make due. We're going to take the guys that we have and find out what they do best and give them a chance to do that. We will end up, I believe, we will end up with a traditional fullback in our offense and how much we'll use him will depend on the style of offense we end up running.”
Can tailback Chris Ogbonnaya fill that role?
“He can do some of it,” Turner said. “He's similar to the guys I talked about back in Washington.”
Can Jordan Cameron be the main tight end in Turner’s offense?
“We’re going to give Jordan opportunity to be that guy,” Turner said. “Now let’s put it in his hands. Is he capable of being that guy? That’s why you go to camp. That’s why you go play the games. Everyone wants to project and say what these guys can be. The game is still played on the field. Guys compete in practice to get opportunities to play in the games and then we get to find out how they match up and do against pretty good competition.”