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Browns offense busy forming new identity

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Brian Hartline left his first meeting with his new team nearly awestruck. Quickly and with precision, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo installed nearly 100 passing plays on the second day of offseason workouts.

Coach Mike Pettine, who has embraced a more involved role on the other side of the football, sat quietly in the back of the meeting room taking notes, soaking in the often animated and compelling presentation.

"It would be difficult to doze off in one of his meetings," Pettine said last week at his press conference after DeFilippo's first time addressing Browns players. "I'll put it that way."

As much as Pettine and the culture change was a selling point to incoming free agents last month, so was DeFilippo's creativity. From the moment he was hired, the 37-year-old play-caller has reiterated Cleveland's offensive identity will be loose and fluid with the main objective of getting playmakers the football in space and scoring more touchdowns.

While the creativity will be ever-present, DeFilippo is practical, too. Instead of scrapping what the Browns did on offense in 2014, the coordinator has kept a hefty portion of the terminology the same and also adopted Cleveland's zone-running system. 

"The terminology is great," Hartline said. "I've been around systems that are similar. At this point, I think everyone is just trying to grab their bearings because no one really has a leg up. When a new offensive coordinator comes in, everyone is learning from scratch."

During phase one of the NFL's offseason program, players are only required to be in the building for four hours at a time – with a mixture of classroom work and conditioning.

That's why this time in April, May and June is so critical for the Browns' offense. Players are obviously encouraged to dive deeper in their preparations at their homes. But the complexities and nuances of each play have to be hammered out in the classroom during the spring for improvements on the field to be seen once September rolls around.

"It's about being good on that day and learning how to maximize our time here," quarterback Josh McCown said. "Let's leave this building every day getting a little bit better."  

Hartline later told reporters DeFilippo has required McCown and each of the other quarterbacks to stand up in front of the entire classroom and highlight the key points of each play.

"He hit it out of the park," Pettine said. "I told the players in the team meeting that, 'I can tell you why I hired the guy, but when you have your first meeting with him you'll see why.' To me, it comes down to it's passion and it's energy. He was great."

Hartline simply called DeFilippo "awesome."

 "He and coach Pettine are reasons why I wanted to be here," Hartline said. "Coming in and talking to those guys and really being on the same page and understanding football the same way and talking football in the same kind of language."

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