BEREA— Mike Pettine came to Cleveland with a specific design for the Browns offense.
Run first, pass later.
In his first season sauntering along the sidelines, Pettine saw the Browns surge to the middle of the NFL pack in terms of rushing, but in his second season, things aren’t going as he planned.
Averaging just 88.4 yards per game on the ground, the Browns are the league’s 28th-ranked rushing unit, while boasting the league’s sixth-best passing attack, leading Pettine to re-think things on offense.
“We still have to have balance,” Pettine said, when asked about the offense. “You gotta find that middle ground. If you’re continually going to (the run) and it’s not working, you have to look elsewhere.”
Though the offense has been forced to be more balanced, thanks to the Browns lack of ability to run the football, Pettine won’t abandon the ground game completely.
In fact, with the run-calling taking a bit of a back seat for balance, Pettine feels the Browns have to be perfect when they do want to run the ball.
“When we call a run, we gotta execute,” Pettine said. “We gotta run well, that’s the tool we’re going to stay ahead of the sticks.”
The run-game may be the team’s vehicle to stay in manageable down-and-distance situations, but the Browns may have to rely on a new driver of that vehicle to help them this week.
Running back Robert Turbin, who was picked up by the Browns on September 10 after sustaining an injury and being waived by the Seattle Seahawks, is expected to make his Dawg Pound debut on Sunday and is looking forward to the opportunity.
“I am excited. I can’t wait until Sunday. It has been a long five weeks,” Turbin said. “Battling from injuries, coming back from injuries is always tough. Being released is always tough, dealing with that mentally. I am excited to have another opportunity and looking forward to making the most of it, definitely.”
Despite running behind Seahwaks star running back Marshawn Lynch last season in Seattle, Turbin averaged 4.2 yards per carry, which has Pettine excited.
“He looks good,” Pettine said. “I’ll be curious to see how that plays out. It’s nice to have that depth.”
When it comes to Turbin’s role, the running back wants to help as much as he can, but Pettine too wants to make sure he's comfortable on the field, especially with his limited reps.
“Having been here and observing it and walking through it is one thing, but actually practicing it and repping it is another thing,” Pettine said. “You look back at his past, what is he comfortable doing? You ask him that. You have some interaction and then I think you give him a little bit. Put some on his plate but don’t give him all of it.”
Pettine might not want to give Turbin the brunt of the load, but he might not have a choice, as running back Isaiah Crowell was limited in practice and is questionable for Sunday’s game with a toe injury.
If Crowell can’t go, Turbin doesn’t seem to have a problem with a big work load.
“No doubt in my mind, I would be ready to carry a heavier load from a conditioning standpoint, from the knowledge of the offense,” Turbin said. “If (Crowell), for whatever reason, or if he is limited on Sunday, as a fellow running back, it is my duty to back him up and make sure that we get the job done on the field.”
When he does take the field, be it in large doses or in limited spurts, Turbin just wants to play a role in the Browns already “explosive” offense.
“I think I will just be another added piece to an offense that has obviously been explosive this year and can make a lot of plays,” Turbin said. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to add to that.”
Turbin is undoubtedly excited to take the field and to add to the Browns offense, but he too understands the challenge that the team will face on Sunday.
With the top-ranked defense in the NFL, the Broncos exhibit the league’s best pass rush, which leads Turbin to believe that the Browns ability to run the football is going to play a big role on Sunday.
“Any time you can establish the running game, it makes it easier on the quarterback. It makes it easier to call plays on the offensive coordinator and you really develop a really good rhythm offensively when you can rush the ball,” Turbin said. “If we can do that, it definitely gives us advantage.”
Though they haven’t mastered the ability to do it yet, according to Turbin, the Browns will be able to run the football if they adhere to a certain plan.
“What we have to do offensively is be disciplined in our technique, be detailed in our assignments,” Turbin said. “(If we) just go out there and play football, be physical and execute on all cylinders on offense, and we will be fine.”
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