CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns totaled 122 rushing yards in a 29-10 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, but one-third of that production came on three runs for 40 yards from Isaiah Crowell on the final three plays of the game.
As the Browns aim to even up their record at 1-1 and start off AFC North Division play with a win over the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium today, they are looking for a boost in production from third-year rusher Isaiah Crowell.
“We would like to get in a rhythm as a team that wants to run the football,” said running game coordinator Kirby Wilson. “You do that by controlling the line of scrimmage early. A runner has to be aggressive and attack the assigned hole and make sure that he has the proper reads.
“Coming into this ball game, that is one of the things we want to establish early, controlling the line of scrimmage and our runners being violent and physical as they attack the line of scrimmage.”
Wilson and the Browns expect more out of Crowell because he has rushed for 1,375 yards and 13 touchdowns in 33 career NFL games while splitting work with Terrance West in 2014 and Duke Johnson Jr. in 2015.
“He is better,” Wilson said. “He is a lot better. We are not 100 percent always there, but no running back is. You will always have some misreads in a game, but he is much better in terms of understanding what he is looking at and why he is looking at it.”
In addition to Crowell, the Browns are looking for Johnson to have more of a role in running the ball out of the backfield after totaling just 401 yards on 107 carries despite being an integral part of the passing game and turning 64 receptions into 562 yards with two touchdowns.
“He is doing a very good job right now,” Wilson said. “We think Duke brings a very vast ability to the table for us. He has got a lot of things he can do really well. Obviously, in the passing game, blitz pickup, as a runner, he has good skills. He is tough. He is smart. He understands what we are trying to do offensively, so we expect him to get off early for us in this game and have some big plays for us.”
With the Browns facing a Ravens defense just outside the top five in the fewest rushing yards allowed, Wilson knows a fast start on the ground could dictate the remainder of the game.
“These guys are outstanding,” Wilson said. “They are a very aggressive front seven. Their defensive backs have a great awareness of their run fits. Obviously, it is a defense that is well coached. They have been for a number of years now.
“When you look at tape, you are always trying to find out how are we going to gain any yards versus this group? They have done a good job over the years. They are still salty. They are still physical up front. We know going into this game, it is going to get real physical and ugly very early and fast.”