CLEVELAND -- There has been no one better at running the football than the Cleveland Browns through the first four weeks of the 2016 NFL season.
The Browns have averaged 149.2 rushing yards per game, have gained 597 yards on the ground and scored four times while carrying the ball. The Browns gained 1,529 rushing yards and scored five running touchdowns all of last season.
In order to keep that rushing attack going strong, the Browns’ most veteran player, left tackle Joe Thomas, knows it will take a concerted, committed effort not only on Sundays, but in the weeks of practice leading up to games.
“As we have success, the stakes become higher,” Thomas said. “People will try to sell out more in trying to stop the run game. One thing we know about the Patriots and being a guy that played through two Belichick disciples for four years, they are going to try to take away what we do the best.
“Currently, it is run the football. We can expect them to come up with some big time wrinkles to try to take away our run game and do things to sell out, so we have to throw the ball.”
Although wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has garnered much of the attention and talk with regard to the Browns over the first month of the regular season, third-year running back Isaiah Crowell has quietly gone about his business when it comes to rushing the ball.
Crowell has gained 394 yards and scored three touchdowns on 61 carries.
“Crow is playing great,” Browns quarterback Cody Kessler said. “He has done a great job helping me out. He has really opened things up in the run game or made people focus on the run game, which has helped open things up in the pass.
“That is a big tribute to our offensive line, as well. The guys are taking the physical mindset of 'We want to run the football.' We have a great back with Crow and also, Duke (Johnson Jr.). These last few weeks have been great running the football.”
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 has shown 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. Then, he went on to add 120 yards and one touchdown in a loss at Washington last Sunday.
“He runs hard,” Kessler said. “I think the best thing about him too is he just hits it. He has no hesitation. He gets the ball and goes and makes a cut and processes really fast. Obviously, I have not been in the league a long time, but he is a great back. From what I have seen, I think he is one of the better backs, and it is awesome to have him on your team as a quarterback, especially.”