BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns run game got off to a slow start in last week’s opener but they hope to kick it into gear this week in Baltimore.
Running back Isaiah Crowell finished with 33 yards on 17 carries and the Browns as a team ran for 57 yards in the 21-18 opening week loss to the Steelers.
It won’t get any easier this week against the Ravens after Baltimore held Cincinnati to 77 yards on 22 attempts in a 20-0 shutout of the Bengals.
“It is one of the best defenses we will play all year,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “Their front seven is as good as anybody.”
So how can the Browns neutralize Baltimore’s front?
“I don’t know if you can,” run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said Friday.
Led by edge rusher Terrell Suggs and linebacker C.J. Mosley, the Ravens recorded 5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss in their Week 1 victory, but Crowell isn’t shaking in his shoes at the prospects of facing them Sunday.
“Those guys are good, but it is not like they are Superman or anything like that,” Crowell said. “They are regular human beings. We just have to go out there. I feel like it is not about the other team. If we come out and execute the way we are supposed to, I don’t feel like it will be a problem.”
Crowell didn’t have the usual 10-, 15-, 20-, 25-plus yard bursts that he normally breaks off multiple times during a game last week against Pittsburgh. His longest carry went for just 6 yards and he averaged just 1.9 yards per attempt against the Steelers but did convert and a 2-point conversion run in the fourth quarter that pulled the Browns within the 21-18 final margin.
“When I went back and watched the film, I didn’t see any [missed opportunities] because I know what I can do,” Crowell said. “I’m confident in myself, and if I did miss some, then I would own up to it. That is not how I feel about it.”
Jackson has made running the ball a priority this season but the Browns ran it 25 times – only 6 times in the second half after failing to establish much of a rhythm in the first 30 minutes.
“We didn’t necessarily control the line of scrimmage early on,” Wilson said. “That was something that we looked back on with regret and wish we had done a better job, all of us collectively, of controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Winning up front in the trenches was a point of emphasis this week during practice and they hope it’ll pay off in yards and points Sunday.
“Everybody has to do their part for it to be successful,” Crowell said. “Receivers have to block down field. I have to do my part by hitting the hole and placing the ball where it is supposed to be. Our line has to just stop any penetration and the quarterback has to make his plays throwing the ball down the field so they won’t be so pressed on the run. All of it goes together.”
With a thin receiving corps, backup back Duke Johnson spent last Sunday lined up at receiver where he was targeted 5 times catching 2 passes for 20 yards leaving rookie Matt Dayes to serve essentially as the No. 2 back instead.
Dayes, who was on the field for 13 offensive snaps, finished with 7 yards on 3 carries in his NFL debut.
“He is a work in progress,” Wilson said of the seventh-round pick. “He did what he was asked to do for the most part. He had some rookie type of mental errors that we think will disappear the more he plays and the more he prepares, but like the rest of us, he has a lot of room for improvement and growth.
“He has done a great job in the two months he has been here of developing and coming up to speed to what we need him to do. We expect this week to be better than last week because there is nothing like playing. You can learn in practice, but to get better, you have to play.”