August 28, 2014

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Getting comfortable

Quarterbacks taking to Chudzinski’s new offense, but Crennel still sees work to do

BEREA — Charlie Frye drops back and hits Braylon Edwards between the numbers on a deep out. Then he finds Edwards on a comeback. Derek Anderson spots tight end Buck Ortega over the middle and zips a completion.
Not to be left out, Brady Quinn throws a nice out to Joshua Cribbs on the sideline.
After two weeks of looking discombobulated in coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s new system, the offense looked its best Wednesday during minicamp. It wasn’t the Walsh-Montana-Rice 49ers, but it looked like a professional offense.
“I think we’ve accomplished a lot in this camp,” Frye said. “We were starting from ground zero and just building blocks. The first day we were just getting everybody lined up.”
“We have made progress up to this point, but by no means are where we want to be once the season starts,” Chudzinski said.
Coach Romeo Crennel thought the congratulations were a bit premature.
“They’re all struggling,” he said when asked about the quarterbacks. “A lot of the offense is in and they haven’t really honed in on it well enough. They’re going to keep working on it.”
Crennel knows there’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done before the Steelers visit Sept. 9. He knows the offense isn’t ready yet — Chudzinski said 80-90 percent has been installed — he hasn’t picked a starting quarterback and the first preseason game is just two weeks after the start of training camp.
The time element isn’t lost on Frye, who said he’ll spend much of the six weeks between minicamp and training camp — free time for the players — at Browns headquarters.
“That’s where the film’s at,” he said. “I just don’t want to take too much of a break, especially with this new offense. The more time you spend away from it, it’s just like relearning.
“The season comes on you fast and you have to be ready.”
Crennel continues to divide the repetitions almost evenly between Frye, Anderson, Quinn and Ken Dorsey. Crennel said he wasn’t sure when he’d pick a starter or make the decision to give more snaps to a particular quarterback or two.
In the meantime, Frye gets the majority of the snaps with the starters.
“I know in the offseason he worked real hard to get stronger,” Crennel said. “He has more strength behind his ball and seems to be putting it on target.”
Does Frye feel like the starting job is still his?
“We’ll find out,” he said.
If Frye can manage to hold onto the starting job, he stands to gain the most from the hiring of Chudzinski. Under Maurice Carthon, the offense was predictable and Frye wasn’t given the power to audible. He received the brunt of the physical punishment and public criticism.
“There isn’t any of it I don’t like and don’t think will be successful,” Frye said of the new offense. “The thing I like most is how much movement and shifting we’re doing.”
Hardly a play is run without pre-snap movement, and many times multiple personnel are involved in the shifts. The choreography overwhelmed the offense in the first two weeks of installation, but the long-term plan is to confuse the defense.
“You try to keep the defense off-balance as much as you can,” Chudzinski said. “And you try to formation to put your personnel in a good position to execute what they can do well.”
“We’re going to cause a lot of defenses problems, because we’re not going to be coming out like last year, just in a formation and not moving around,” Frye said.
Frye has always been a big fan of movement. He’s at his best when he rolls out.
“Chud thinks that’s one of my strengths and he’s allowed me to do more of it,” Frye said. “It’s something the defense has to game plan. It’s just going to be an added advantage.
“That’s something I wanted to get to last year, but we didn’t get to it.”
As optimistic as Frye is with minicamp set to close today, he knows the offense can’t be accurately judged — and the quarterback competition won’t be decided — until it faces a defense in a different-colored helmet.
“We won’t have a full grasp until the live bullets start flying,” Frye said. “We’ll see what happens in the preseason.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.

061407browns.jpgBRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE
New offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski gets an up-close-and-personal look as rookie wide receiver Syndric Steptoe gets ready to catch a pass Wednesday during minicamp.