BEREA—The Browns know in order to be successful, they need to be able to run the football. However, after three games they are averaging just 86 yards a game rushing and are coming off a week where they rushed for just 39 yards.
“It is easy for me to sit here and say we are not hitting the panic button because we only had 14 run attempts,” John Greco said. “In our minds, a positive run attempt, a successful run attempt, we said we had five of 14 (against Oakland). If you look at those two goal line runs, one or two things here and there then we are seven out of 14. That is 50 percent. If you are at 50 percent or above success rate in your run game, you should be a pretty good team. We are one or two things short here and there. That is the most frustrating (part) about it. I don’t know think it is this big cataclysmic thing that we are having a problem with. It is just one guy here and there. It is all of us. We’re trying to get that cleaned up. If we do we know we have something special.”
The Browns are currently ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing. The rushing average is deceiving as when quarterback runs by Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel are deducted from the totals, they are averaging just 66 yards a game.
The Chargers are giving up 135 yards a game rushing, which could give the Browns a chance to get their rushing attack on track.
There has been a lot of speculation centered on what the difference from last season to this season has been. The Browns averaged over 140 yards a game rushing in the first five games of the 2014 season with the offensive line of Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz and Greco. Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray are the same blocking tight ends. The Browns traded Terrance West and still have Isaiah Crowell, with the difference being Duke Johnson for West.
The biggest difference is at offensive coordinator with John DeFilippo in place of Kyle Shanahan. However, DeFilippo says he hasn’t changed the zone blocking blocking that was successful in the early going.
“Our run, as I have said since I have gotten here, really didn’t change much,” DeFilippo said. “It really didn’t. Have we added a few wrinkles? Sure, but without a few wrinkles on a few plays here and there, the verbiage is still the same, the line calls up front are still the same. Now, the pass game is much, much different. From an offensive line standpoint, from the schematics of it are fairly similar to what has been run here in the past.”
DeFilippo says the biggest problem with the rushing offense is simple.
“I think it is a couple things,” he said. “I think there are a lot of onesies. The run game, to me, where we are right now, we need to have some confidence early. I feel like I had a big reason to why that didn’t happen last week. I take ownership for that. We’re going to be much better this week. We are going to do a few things different this week and we’re going to see if they work for us. I am not going to tell you what, but we are going to try some new things.”
DeFilippo explained what he means by onesies.
“The onesies are just one guy not doing his job,” he said. “Whether that be me with the wrong play call, whether that be missing a block at the point of attack, not getting to the second level, a back on the goal line missing a hole, those type of things when I say one guy. I wouldn’t say as a cohesive unit we are playing bad on the offensive line. I just think we are having one breakdown and that is the nature of offensive football.
“When you have one guy breakdown, the play is not going to be successful,” he said. “To where it is much, much different than defensive football. If a guy doesn’t get in his gap, there are a lot of times there is a linebacker there or a safety there to make a play behind him. That is not the case in offensive football. That is the challenging and fun part of coaching on offense is that you have to get 11 guys running in sync and doing what you need them to do.”
Bowe Up: Pettine said that WR Dwayne Bowe is expected to be active this week. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said that Bowe was inactive last week due to an injury. Pettine said Bowe is more comfortable and had a good week of practice. DeFilippo said Bowe had his best practice of the year on Wednesday.
Five Out for Chargers Game: DL Desmond Bryant (shoulder), LB Scott Solomon (ankle), RB Robert Turbin (ankle), DB K’Waun Williams (concussion) and LB Craig Robertson (ankle) were ruled out for Sunday’s game. RB Shaun Draughn (back) and DB Tashaun Gipson (groin) are questionable.
“It’s a loss (not having Bryant),” Pettine said. “But it’s a good opportunity for Xavier (Cooper). He did some good things in his first game, but anytime you lose a player of Desmond’s quality, you have to have someone to step up.”
If Draughn is unable to play, the Browns would have just two running backs active. Pettine said that FB Malcolm Johnson has been “cross-trained” to play running back, if needed.
Pettine also said that DB Justin Gilbert might replace Draughn as the kick returner.
Turbin Closer: RB Robert Turbin was on the practice field on Thursday and Friday and is making progress in his return. He is not expected to play this week.
“It’s getting there,” he said. “It’s getting real close. Starting to run, starting to run full speed. Like I said, we want to put some extra weight on the ankle with the helmet and shoulder pads and change direction that way, catch a couple footballs and accelerate down the field and see how it felt, and then just shut it down and continue to progress from there.”