CLEVELAND -- Along with defending against it, the Cleveland Browns have struggled to run the football effectively on a consistent basis, and that trend continued in the 29-10 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field last Sunday.
The Browns totaled 122 yards against the Eagles, but one-third of that production came on three runs for 40 yards from Isaiah Crowell on the final three plays of the game.
“It wasn’t as good as I liked,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “I thought the yards we made were at the end of the game when they were playing really soft. I didn’t put any stock into what we did as far as running the ball there last week. We just have to keep working at it and keep getting better.”
Jackson felt the Browns could have been much more effective in the run game had they gained more ground on first and second downs.
“It is like anything,” Jackson said. “You run the ball on first down and you don’t make but a yard or two and you run it again and you are still not making yards, it is always easy for the head coach to start throwing the ball.
“Our guys understand that in order to be a good running team, there is some of that, but at the same time, you can feel it on the field when your guys are starting to take over a game or push people and those type of things. We just have to do that better and we will.”
Crowell and second-year rusher Duke Johnson Jr. are the Browns’ top two running backs, but over their combined 50 games of NFL experience, the two have rushed for 1,776 yards and 13 touchdowns on 452 career carries.
However, Jackson is looking for far more productivity out of the running game when the Browns take on the Baltimore Ravens in the home opener at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
“There is not a substitute for a good runner,” Jackson said. “If you have a guy who can wear the defense down a little bit and a guy who knows how to carry the ball, be physical and make those tough yards, there is no substitute for those guys.
“You have to have them. We have not kind of turned our guy (Crowell) loose yet, but he has some special ability that way. We are going to find out here pretty soon.”