CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns running backs coach/run-game coordinator Kirby Wilson is confident the team is heading in the right direction with the ground game.
And the Browns have found production from the run game despite relying heavily on Isaiah Crowell between the tackles and sophomore rusher Duke Johnson Jr. for spot relief appearances over the first three weeks of the season.
“They are coming along really well,” Wilson said. “They both had really good outings last weekend. It is a part of the process. We are trying to develop our identity of who we are and how we are going to run the football.
“After the first quarter of the season, it is just starting to show the type of run game that we are going to have and our strengths within that run game. It is coming together nicely. Guys are doing a great job up front. Everyone is doing their part for the success of it.”
Through the first three games of the season, Crowell has gained 274 yards and scored two touchdowns on 45 carries, while Johnson has accounted for 103 yards on 16 rushing attempts.
“We think both of them are dual runners, meaning they can run between the tackles and they also have the ability to run outside of the tackles,” Wilson said. “They both have done a good job to this day. We are going to continue to work that for both of them.”
In the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Crowell, the Browns knew they had a straight-ahead rusher, but in losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, he showed a unique blend of power and speed.
Crowell ran for 133 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries in a 25-20 loss to the Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. That one touchdown came on the Browns’ second possession of the game, when he broke free at the line of scrimmage and raced 85 yards down the field and into the end zone.
As a follow-up, Crowell rushed for 79 yards on 15 carries in the overtime loss to the Dolphins.
“He is understanding where his eyes should be prior to the snap and he is understanding where his eyes should be post-snap,” Wilson said. “He is reading defenses a lot better because he understands it a lot better and he is training his eyes. He is mentally rehearsing throughout the week of what do I need to see for this play to be successful?”
With what Crowell and Johnson have accomplished in the first three games, Wilson and the Browns are very much looking forward to seeing what happens over the rest of the season.
“We are never satisfied,” Wilson said. “We want to be the best in the National Football League at running the football, and that takes 11 men to do it. You have to do it up front. Obviously, you have to be great runners and you have to be great run blockers on the perimeter. It is a team effort, and everyone is trying to do their best.”