At times, injuries and dropped passes plagued the Cleveland Browns offense in 2011.
The Browns’ offense averaged just 13.6 points and 288.8 yards per game. They ranked 24th in the league with 193.1 pass yards and 28th with 95.7 rush yards per game.
The team started five different players in their base offensive formation last fall, including
Despite the youth and inexperience at the NFL level, Shurmur remains optimistic that his wide receivers can make an impact in the second year of the team’s West Coast offense.
“I think we’ve got some guys that, No. 1, are good players,” Shurmur said following the team’s Tuesday morning walk-through at mandatory minicamp. “I think they’ve all had a chance now to play a year in the system and have an offseason to improve their game. Then, we’ve added some young players that I think are going to develop into good players. For all of those reasons, I think they’re going to be better and productive. As you get more efficient quarterback play, I think it ties together with a good running game, so it all plays together.”
After breaking the team’s rookie record with an average of 18.35 receiving yards per catch in 2009, Massaquoi has struggled to find a consistent rhythm within the Browns’ offense.
Last fall, Massaquoi ranked fifth on the team with 31 catches for 384 yards and two touchdowns. He was the third-leading receiver for the Browns in terms of yardage, as only Little and Cribbs had more yards from the receiver position.
“He’s had a great offseason,” Shurmur said of Massaquoi. “I’m very pleased with where he is. I think he came in healthy this offseason and he’s taken advantage of the reps he’s gotten and he’s made plays out here. I think that’s money in the bank for him as he gets ready for training camp and the season.”
While the receivers work with the quarterbacks on their timing in and out of breaks, the running backs will spend the remainder of the offseason practices during minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs) getting repetitions and honing their skills.
Hardesty and Jackson missed a combined 22 games last season. Hardesty lost six games due to a calf injury, while Jackson was injured in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve before the regular season started. Ogbonnaya played in 11 straight games after being signed by the Browns from Houston’s practice squad.
“Knock on wood right now, I think that group is healthy and they’re running around fast,” Shurmur said. “You can see there’s some carryover in learning from guys that were here a year ago and Trent’s doing a good job of picking things up. They look fast and they’re getting their reps. Because the lines are a little bit longer, the reps they’re in there for, they look crisp. That’s good.”
Thomas was signed to a contract after getting a chance to work out with the team during rookie minicamp last month.
“We felt good about what he did,” Shurmur said. “He performed well in the rookie minicamp and since that time, he’s done the same thing. I think he’s quick. He understands how to run the football and when we’ve thrown him the football, he’s done a nice job of catching it. Those are the things you can see in these camps. He’s a very bright, energetic guy that learns well and brings it to the field well. He’ll have a chance to compete with those other backs.”
BACK IN THE FOLD
At the beginning of his press conference, Shurmur informed the media that every player on the 90-man roster was in Berea to participate in the mandatory minicamp and most of those athletes would be able to practice this week.
One of the Browns Shurmur noticed a big change in from the 2011 season was defensive end
“He’s doing well,” Shurmur said. “I think his body looks like I thought it would look a year ago. He’s done a nice job of getting himself in shape. That’s the first phase, getting your body right so when it’s time to compete, you can do it at a high level. I think he’s done that and he’s shown up and done some good things.”
GETTING MORE COMFORTABLE
As a rookie in 2011, offensive lineman
“I’ve seen a guy that’s very focused, very detailed about his preparation,” Shurmur said. “Prior to the offseason program phase, he did a nice job of getting himself in better shape than he was last year and I just see a guy that knows a little bit more about what he’s doing and I think that’ll help him be better next fall.”
‘JUST ANOTHER DAY’
For the past two weeks, the Browns have been going through their OTA practice sessions in Berea. They have completed six of the 10 scheduled sessions with four more to be held next week.
Shurmur sees no difference between the OTAs and minicamps.
“Minicamps, OTAs, the way you practice is the same,” Shurmur said. “We’re wearing the same equipment. The only difference is, we put a walk-through in before. Once we blow the horn at one o’clock and we start practicing, you don’t know if it’s spring, fall, winter. It’s just practicing. It’s all the same.”
In addition to their player transactions this offseason, the Browns added a trio of veterans to the staff, offensive coordinator Brad Childress, senior assistant to the offense Nolan Cromwell and defensive backs coach Tim Hauck.
Last fall, Shurmur served as both head coach and offensive coordinator.
“Brad does a very, very good job of directing the offensive coaches, the players and he and I are on the same page on almost everything,” Shurmur said. “Brad being here is very important for us and I think it will help us tremendously this season.”
A former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Cromwell has been working closely with the Browns’ wide receivers. He previously coached the wide receivers with the Green Bay Packers (1998), Seattle Seahawks (1999-2007) and St. Louis Rams (2010-11).
“I think he’s an outstanding teacher,” Shurmur said of Cromwell. “He has a good way of explaining it to the players and I think he works extremely well with (wide receivers coach) Mike Wilson, a fine teacher himself. All of those things play into one-another. There are a lot of guys out there that are teaching extremely well.”