One of the biggest concerns the Browns had after the 2005 season was finding a way to be more productive in the red zone. Specifically, they wanted to be better inside the 5 because they scored only four rushing touchdowns last season.
LeCharles Bentley was supposed to be a big part of that, but they lost the two-time Pro Bowl player to a torn patellar tendon on the first play of training camp. Now the burden falls on offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon and fullback Terrelle Smith to make it better.
Reuben Droughns ran out of gas last season setting a franchise record with 309 carries. He also caught 39 passes. That is 348 touches, yet he scored only two touchdowns, both on the ground.
"It's going to be better because we understand the offense better and the offensive line understands the system," Droughns said. "We have a year under our belt. We have good chemistry.
"In our division we've seen just about every blitz a team can throw at us. We're going to be a lot more comfortable in the system. We'll know where the blocks are supposed be."
Smith would be the one leading Droughns through the line. He was embarrassed about being the fullback on the team that set a franchise record for fewest rushing touchdowns in a season last year. Smith has played six NFL seasons and in five of those blocked for a 1,000-yard runner. Droughns rushed for 1,232 yards last season. Ricky Williams rushed for 1,000 yards twice and Deuce McAllister did so twice when Smith was the fullback in New Orleans.
"It has to be better," Smith said, "But football isn't an individual sport. It's a team sport. Once we get it together, we'll be fine."
Smith is content with never touching the ball, but last year Carthon tried making him a pass-catching fullback. It did not work. A pass in the season opener last year glanced off his hands and was intercepted. After that he rarely touched the ball. He finished with 12 catches and six carries.
Smith is being used as more of a blocker this training camp, and that is fine with him. One reason Darnell Dinkins was signed in free agency was because the Browns need a blocking tight end. It was a job Smith tried to fill.
"I think I'll be there more inside the 5," Smith said. "Corey (McIntyre) was a good enough fullback that he was used back there. We needed help at tight end, so I did that.
"This year they have more good tight ends, so I'll be at fullback more."
Smith has clearly been the best blocking fullback in training camp. The Browns have worked extensively in goal-line situations. At times Carthon has used Smith and rookie fullback Lawrence Vickers in the backfield together inside the 5. Vickers is the pass-catching fullback Carthon hoped Smith would be.
The Browns are unlikely to keep three fullbacks. McIntyre appears to be the odd man out.