Skip to main content


Deep passing becoming a surprise staple of Cleveland's offense

The Browns are tied for first in a statistic nobody could have ever guessed just one month ago.

So far in 2015, Cleveland has five passing plays of 40-yards or more – three from Johnny Manziel and two from Josh McCown. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the only other team with five in the NFL.

The five plays in the vertical passing game have led to three stimulating touchdowns from wide receiver Travis Benjamin; the two others produced by Gary Barnidge and Brian Hartline last week now have the San Diego Chargers on alert for more than just No. 11.

Cleveland has scored 58 points so far this season and 31 of those points came on drives with big passing plays. 

"I think we've surprised some people," Benjamin said.

Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and other players have defined Cleveland's offense as a West Coast, execution-focused, methodically-drive-the-football-down-the-field based system. But it's become rapidly clear, the Browns have tools to pierce a defense deep down the field at any time during a game. 

"I think deep passing should be a staple of every offense," wide receiver Andrew Hawkins said. "When you have high-flyers like Travis Benjamin, who's making so many plays, it's going to open up a lot underneath because people have to be aware when you have somebody that fast.

"It opens up a lot in your offense, whether it's the run game, shorter passes. Deep passing is a great element of the offense that I think we will continue to develop."

Last Sunday against the Raiders produced two of the 40-yard pass plays, even though McCown admitted his deep ball accuracy "was off."

"There is no one that is preparing better to make sure that doesn't happen this week against the Chargers than Josh McCown," DeFilippo said. "If you turn on that tape, there are a lot of plays that he made, a lot of plays he made and a lot of throws he made. Every quarterback in every game has plays that he wishes he could have back, but Josh is our guy."

McCown's return to the starting lineup stirred many other players involvement in the passing game, though comparing his 49 attempts to Manziel's 15 against the Titans is apples and oranges. Still, Hartline's 96 yards were the most by a Browns receiver not named Benjamin in 2015, while Barnidge's 106 yards were a career high.

The Browns have talked all week about how much they respect the Chargers' secondary. San Diego marches to the beat of safety Eric Weddle's drum and cornerback Brandon Flowers is physical enough to take away one side of the football field.

But for Cleveland, Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium is more about starting fast, playing aggressively, and pouncing on the right chances 40 or more yards down the field.

"We've got to focus on ourselves, man," Hawkins said. "We had a lot of mistakes that were self-inflicted. Our biggest thing is … we need to do what we do better."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content