When you look at this Cleveland Browns offense schematically, there are a lot of similarities to what you see here in Philadelphia. There's a multiple run game that utilizes a variety of schemes up front (although they're a bit more gap-schemed based than zone along the offensive line). They appear to be an offense geared toward spreading the ball around the field. Hue Jackson's scheme utilizes a good amount of Run Pass Option elements.
The centerpiece in this offense, and the player that everyone wants to hear about as we head into Week 1, is quarterback Robert Griffin III. Eagles fans are very familiar with RGIII during his time in Washington, and will now "welcome" him back to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
How has he looked in a new offense this summer? He's certainly been up and down. We've seen a lot of good flashes (more on that in a bit), but we've also seen some of the negatives that plagued his career in the NFC East. You see the lack of consistent poise in the pocket under pressure, the inability to get through progressions quickly when the defense takes away his primary target and his decision-making at times was questionable.
On this play, you can see some of the warts in Griffin's game. He's got wide receiver Josh Gordon on the deep dig route against Tampa Bay, but on this play he failed to show the anticipation to let go of the football before his receiver came out of his break. Instead, he held onto the ball and the rush was able to get to him for the sack. It's also worthwhile to note the poor job of the offensive line, mainly center Cameron Erving, picking up the TT Stunt on this play. Both defensive tackles cross here, and Erving passes off his man to the left guard but doesn't pick up the one coming to him, and that's who ultimately brings Griffin down for the sack.
But there were also plenty of examples of good plays from Griffin. Jackson knows that Griffin's best traits are his athleticism and his ability to throw the deep ball. For that reason, I believe there will be more than a few designed vertical shot plays built into the game plan for the Browns every time they take the field with him at quarterback. Some of the unconventional route concepts used in the scheme will be a tough test for the Eagles' secondary.
On this vertical throw to Gordon, Griffin places a great ball along the sideline, allowing his receiver to go get it. The Browns send out three receivers on this route, keeping a running back and a tight end in to chip and help out their offensive line before releasing into the flats. This gives Griffin extra time in the pocket. On this play, Griffin is asked to work off that safety in the middle of the field, and with a pump fake he does enough to keep him on the post to allow for Gordon to break open downfield.
The Browns are in the "fringe" area here, just outside the high red zone and in scoring range. They motion running back Isaiah Crowell out of the backfield into an empty set. This is going to be a route concept known by many as All Go Switch, with four vertical routes where the two receivers on each side "switch" release. This is a beautiful touch throw by Griffin for a touchdown to the versatile tight end Gary Barnidge.
The other aspect of Griffin at the quarterback position is obviously his athleticism. The zone read element is certainly a part of the Cleveland offense. Keeping him under wraps in designed reads, option plays and quarterback runs will be important for the Eagles' defense going into this game.
On this play against the Falcons, the Browns run a Power Read play to have Griffin read the backside edge player. When he sees the defensive end crash on the running back, Griffin pulls the ball and runs for a huge gain and, like Doug Pederson said earlier this week, protected himself with a slide at the end of the run.
I mentioned earlier a lot of the similarities between the Browns' scheme and the one here in Philadelphia, and one of those likenesses is the multitude of formations the coaching staff employs. There's a ton of pre-snap motion and different shifts, moving players around the field like pieces on a chessboard to help establish the coverage before the snap and to create favorable matchups.
Here you see the Browns motion Barnidge out wide to take advantage of his abilities on an island, even against a defensive back. He runs a bit of a stutter-and-go, drawing a flag from the safety and a first down for the Browns.
Barnidge is one of those players who Cleveland loves to move around. The veteran broke out last season in a Pro Bowl year, and Jackson is leveraging his versatility by putting him in a number of different spots. The same can be said for the dynamic second-year running back Duke Johnson.
With Barnidge and Johnson, the Browns have two traditional "middle of the field" weapons that Jackson has turned into full-on "satellite" players, meaning he moves them all around the formation. The third player who fits that description in this offense is the former quarterback-turned wide receiver, Terrelle Pryor. Eagles fans may remember Pryor during his days with the Oakland Raiders as a quarterback (he was the starter on the other sideline during Nick Foles' unforgettable seven-touchdown day). Three years later, he's made the transformation into a legitimate weapon for Jackson and RGIII on the perimeter, where his athletic gifts serve him well in every level of the field.
Pryor isn't just matched up against some scrub cornerback in the preseason on this touchdown. That's Pro Bowl talent Desmond Trufant on the other side of the line of scrimmage, and Pryor runs right by him on this Go route for a score.
It's not just the vertical passing game with Pryor though because Cleveland is a huge screen team. With the amount of Run Pass Option plays in the structure of their offense, it's almost a guarantee that Pryor will need to be accounted for in that phase of the game, meaning the corners on the outside must be prepared to make a tackle one on one against the 6-4, 223-pound wideout.
That size isn't just an advantage for Pryor as a receiver, and Jackson knows it. You typically wouldn't expect a receiver to be a strong blocker in the run game, especially one who was a quarterback just a couple of years ago, but Jackson's usage of Pryor doesn't exclude putting him tight to the formation as a crack player or as a "pin" player on sweep plays like the one you see above. Pryor lined up out wide, in the slot, as a wing player slightly detached from the formation and even in the backfield at times. The Eagles must be prepared for the challenges that he can present on Sunday.
So with all of the players being moved around the formation, it's no surprise to see all of the different personnel groupings Cleveland uses. One of those groupings includes a rookie offensive lineman checking into the game as a tight end, but you'll (probably) never see him run a route. The player is tackle Spencer Drango out of Baylor, and Hue Jackson brings him in as an extra offensive lineman. If you followed the Cincinnati Bengals last year, you may recall that Jackson did the same thing with second-round offensive tackle Jake Fisher out of Oregon. So what can the Eagles expect when Drango takes the field? Well, it's not as cut and dry as you may expect.
Here, Drango is used at the point of attack on a double team. He misses the linebacker at the second level (who ends up making the play), but you can see him help finish the defensive lineman into the dirt.
They use Drango in the run game on this play, but this time they pull him from the back side. Now you may be thinking, "Well all they do is run the ball when he's in the game, this shouldn't be hard to game plan for!" Well, as any good offensive coach does, Hue Jackson tries to keep his tendencies hidden. When it wasn't a run play with Drango in the game, they often attacked vertically down the field.
What does this all mean? The Eagles' second-level defenders need to be very disciplined with their keys early in the down whenever Drango steps on the field. One false step could result in a speedy receiver like Pryor, rookie Corey Coleman or Andrew Hawkins flying past them into the end zone on a play-action shot play downfield. Whether it's as an extra big body at the point of attack or as an extra man in pass protection on vertical passing plays, Drango appears to be a big part of the game plan for the Cleveland Browns.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.