CLEVELAND: Under a quasi spotlight Saturday afternoon in front of close to 12,000 fans, the Browns’ offense looked exactly as expected — a little shaky.
The Browns played three-yards and a cloud of dust offense the prior two seasons, before coach Pat Shurmur arrived in Berea expected to install his version of the West Coast offense.
Given the circumstances surrounding this year’s NFL season — the lockout and time lost from organized team activities and mini-camps — it shouldn’t be of great surprise that quarterback Colt McCoy and his offensive teammates looked out of sync in some spots.
“You saw a lot of things that were really close. Just right off the hands or somebody didn’t look … those are things you get a feel for as you go along,” McCoy said. “Those things are frustrating at the time, but easily fixable once you go back and watch the tape.”
Call them close calls, near misses, flubs or whatever, the Browns had opportunities to show what they could do with the ball and came up short.
On the first play of the main 11-on-11 scrimmage, McCoy had third-year wide receiver Brian Robiskie with a step on cornerback Sheldon Brown and underthrew the ball, allowing Brown to make a play on it. In another instance, a ball bounced off the hands of running back Peyton Hillis, allowing defensive back Mike Adams to come up with an interception and return it for a touchdown.
McCoy said the team ran some plays for the first time in Saturday’s scrimmage and that contributed to a disjointed feel. But he said he’s optimistic about what’s happened in the short amount of time that the team has been together.
“I think everybody is learning at a real rapid pace. I think that we are picking up really, really well for what we have been doing,” he said. “I am very excited about our progress. We have another month before our first regular-season game begins. We are looking at it positively and will let it take care of it itself.”
Shurmur agreed, especially when it comes to McCoy learning the new system.
“As a quarterback, there’s always a lot going on,” Shurmur said. “For him to be able to come out here and execute in a lot of situations he’s done real well.”
Hillis, who will see an increased role in the team’s passing game out of the backfield, said the players shouldn’t have much difficulty digesting things. He’s especially confident in his ability to learn it.
“I’ve had five different playbooks in five different years, so I feel like it can come pretty easy,” he said.
There is every reason to believe that what happened on the field Saturday is nothing more than growing pains. At this stage of training camp, the offense is typically behind the defense. The Browns did come up with more than a few impressive plays offensively, especially during red-zone drills.
In the red zone drills, McCoy tossed for two touchdowns, finding rookie wide receiver Greg Little in the corner of the end zone on one play and putting the ball in the perfect spot.
“Greg made a nice play,” McCoy said. “In the red zone, you can throw it up and he will go get it.”
In the other instance, McCoy found tight end Evan Moore in a mismatch against linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. He hit Moore about 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and Moore ran the rest of the way for a 45-yard touchdown. That is how the West Coast offense is supposed to work.
“He’s a big body; a big target,” McCoy said. “I said at the beginning of camp we’re going to have to utilize our tight ends. When you have those big bodies, those are QB friendly targets.”
It’s those moments that led Shurmur to conclude that the offense and McCoy are coming along.
“He’s made huge strides in one week,” Shurmur said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do though, Colt knows that. I think at the end of the first week you could say he’s made a lot of progress.”