Cleveland Browns aim for more success in the running game

CLEVELAND -- Through the first four weeks of the 2016 regular season, the Cleveland Browns had the most prolific running game in the National Football League.

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.

“The guys up front,” running back Duke Johnson said of their success. “The guys up front and the play calling. It is really everybody -- receivers doing their job, tight ends, everybody from top to bottom and Cody (Kessler) coming in and knowing when to give the ball and when not to. It goes to pretty much everyone.

“The offense is great. We love it. We know we still have a lot more opportunities to go out and just show that we can play.”

Through the first four games of the season, lead running back Isaiah Crowell has gained 394 yards and scored three touchdowns on 61 carries. Johnson has accounted for 148 yards on 24 rushing attempts in limited duty, much of which has come behind a rookie quarterback, Cody Kessler.

“That is what we try to do,” Johnson said of taking the pressure off of Kessler. “Knowing his situation and knowing Cody is stepping in and having to go out and play, we just try to make every play that we can.

“We first like to protect him and make sure that he has a clean pocket to throw when it is his time to make a play for the team, but when our number is called, we try to make plays and just get him in manageable positions to lead the offense.”

Now in his second NFL season after a record-setting career at the University of Miami, Johnson is on pace to best the statistics he put up in his rookie year.

After rushing for 379 yards and turning 61 catches into 534 yards with a pair of receiving touchdowns, Johnson has combined to gain 263 yards on 42 touches, 24 carries and 18 receptions.

“I’m more comfortable,” Johnson said. “I’m more comfortable than I was my first year. First year, I was just going out and just getting a feel for it, just playing and not really thinking about much. Just nerves and just being in the NFL as a rookie and just playing to where now, I am on my second year, and more of my mental game has expanded a lot.”

And Johnson very much looks forward to producing more for the Browns, who have nearly two dozen rookies on their roster.

“I love it,” Johnson said of the youthful roster. “I was there last year, so I can understand what they are going through. The coaches are asking a lot from them, regardless of what round you were picked, where you were drafted. It really does not matter.

“When you are on this team, Coach is going to ask a lot from you, regardless of who you are, where you came from. Me being there last year, I can kind of relate to them and talk to them a little bit and just get them to understand that there is nothing personal, it is just for the better of the team.”


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