BEREA—The Browns have gone 22 games without a 100-yard rusher.
They currently average 75.6 yards per game on the ground, good for 31st in the NFL, and a league-worst 3.3 yards-per carry.
Amidst their most recent contest against Pittsburgh, the Browns collected just 15 rushing yards and eight of their 11 handoffs on the afternoon went for a yard, zero yards or even for a loss.
The aforementioned numbers above may speak for themselves, but Browns running backs coach, Wilbert Montgomery, when asked if he was satisfied with the commitment of the team to the running game this season, couldn’t really speak at all,
“I can’t answer that one,” Montgomery said. “I can’t answer that question because if you look at the history of guys that I had, they got the ball.”
In as few words, Montgomery stated the problem with the Browns run game— they don't have one.
“It’s hard when you don’t get opportunities to carry the ball,” Montgomery said. ”Everything you do as a runner, you have to get a rhythm and the way we’ve been playing and how we’ve been playing hasn’t allowed the running backs to do what they can do and to showcase their abilities out there on the field.”
The Browns don’t run the football for quite a few reasons, but the first of which, according to Montgomery, is the way they’ve piled up the penalties and allowed points on defense.
“When you’re playing from behind and you make a lot of mistakes on early downs, jump offsides, miscues, now you’re playing behind the downs,” Montgomery said. “You’ve got to stay ahead of downs in order to be effective in the run game.”
As Montgomery said, the Browns haven’t had the luxury of running the ball much in the second half, which has been noticeable on multiple fronts.
Take Duke Johnson, for instance, who touched the ball zero times in the second half of the Browns’ game against the Bengals, or Isaiah Crowell, who received just one official carry in the second half against Pittsburgh and finished with -5 yards on six carries.
When asked about the the Browns straying away from the running game in the second half, Crowell, much like Montgomery, said more than his words conveyed.
“I feel the same way you feel,” Crowell said. “I just listen to the coaches, go by what they say, and just listen to them because they’re in control. I’m just going along with what they want.”
What Montgomery wants is for the running backs is to take advantage of the few times that they are handed the ball and for those around the running backs to give the guys in the backfield an opportunity to find some space.
“The running backs have to get more yards when they have an opportunity. The line has to do a better job and the tight ends have to do a better job on holding up their end of the bargain as well, and that’s blocking,” Montgomery said. “No runner in this game will be able to execute when you don’t have those things in front of you.”
It seems to have been a domino effect that has forced the Browns running game into the ground, which is why Montgomery places so much emphasis on that first domino— getting the running game established early in the season.
“If you look at it, first half throughout this season if you look at the running backs across the league or before then, you have to get into a rhythm,” Montgomery said. “The rhythm is when after you have done touched the ball a certain number of times so you get a feel for what the defense is presenting to you or how they’re presenting it to you, so you can go out there and execute those run plays. you get to understand the blocking scheme a little bit more, you can make your reads off the blocking scheme.”
With none of the aforementioned things having taken place for the Browns thus far, it seems as if the rest of the dominos are bound to fall in this terrible season for the team’s running game, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up.
“(Montgomery) just wants us to keep fighting, keep competing each and every game,” Crowell said. “It’s not there yet, so we just gotta keep working.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.