Browns running game showing good signs
AUG 21, 2014 4:00p ET
BEREA, Ohio -- The Browns are counting on a good running game in Kyle Shanahan's offense and that is why they signed Ben Tate as an unrestricted free agent. That is also why they traded up to get Terrance West in the most recent NFL Draft.
The Browns averaged just over 86 yards a game rushing in 2013, which was tied for 27thin the NFL in rushing.
Mike Pettine was happy with the running game in the second preseason game.
"I thought we ran a little better," Pettine said. "I thought (Ben) Tate showed up a little bit more. He averaged five yards per carry. There were a couple, you know, there was one four-yard run he turned into a seven-yard run. I thought that was good."
Tate has 51 yards on 10 carries, including a 19-yard run. Through the first two preseason games, Tate has 76 yards on 16 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, West has 18 carries for 53 yards (2.9 avg.) with a long of 10 yards thus far in the preseason.
"(Terrance) West has done some good things," Pettine said. "He's learning. I think that competition is still wide open for that third running back spot."
Pettine has said he wants the running game to be the cornerstone of the Browns offense.
"I think everything will be gameplan specific," Pettine said. "If we're getting looks to throw the ball to the outside, I think we'll take advantage of it. But we always want to have the ability to run the football. I've said that from day one. That's critical, regardless of the weather, if you have a lead at the end of the game, you have to be able to take time off the clock and the best way to do that is running the football.
"We want it to be a cornerstone of what we do, but at the same point, we don't want it to be the only thing, but it has to be there," Pettine said. "That comes with having a good offensive line so you can do both. You can run the football and you can protect the quarterback."
Joe Thomas thinks Tate's experience in Shanahan's offense has been very helpful and he expects big things out of Tate.
""I think he's doing a great job," Thomas said. "He's the only guy who has been in this offense and his knowledge and leadership in this offense (has been big). I think he's done a great job and I expect him to have a great season for us."
Thomas said the line is getting the schematics down but it is helpful that Tate knows where he's supposed to be.
"The big thing in the zone offense is being on the same page as the line in the 'Y' scheme," Thomas said. "If we do our jobs, we'll create holes for Ben."
Center Alex Mack feels the running game is coming along but is looking for consistency.
"I think we've done a good job," Mack said. "But, our consistency needs to improve."
Thomas said it's hard to gauge how much the Browns will run the ball once the regular season begins because much of the preseason has been devoted to the quarterback play. However, he knows if the Browns can be successful running the ball, it will open up so much more for the offense.
"It's tough to say from the preseason," Thomas said. "But in the regular season (the coaches) will go with what's working."
"When you think AFC North you think of teams playing great defense and being able to run the ball."
Turk Looms: The Browns along with the other 31 NFL teams have roster cuts approaching quickly. Currently, teams are allowed to still have 90 players on their roster but they have to cut to 75 players by Aug. 26. Just four days later, rosters have to be down to 53 on Aug. 30. On Aug. 31, teams can establish a practice squad, which has been expanded from eight to 10 players.
Pettine was asked about the expansion of the practice squad and also the ability to have two players who have up to two years experience still on the practice squad.
"I think that's a win for everyone," Pettine said. "I also like what they've done with the experienced guys being able to come back."
Assuming the Browns don't make their full roster moves until the 26th, 37 players that are currently with the team will be gone within a week after the third preseason game with the Rams. The Browns currently have 90 players on the roster, which means they will have to drop at least 15 by next Tuesday.
Walking Wounded: The following Browns did not participate in Thursday's practice due to injury: OL Michael Bowie (shoulder), DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), WR Nate Burleson (hamstring), DB Pierre Desir (knee), LB Darius Eubanks (shoulder), OL Randall Harris (knee), DB T.J. Heath (hip), WR Jonathan Krause (knee), LB Eric Martin (concussion), LB Keith Pough (ankle), DB Buster Skrine (thumb), DB Isaiah Trufant (knee) and DB K'Waun Williams (hamstring). - NFI: OL Nick McDonald (wrist).
Burleson, Desir, Heath, Trufant and Williams were on the stationary bikes and working with the trainers during the portion of practice open to the media. The rest listed were not seen on the field.
Pettine is hopeful that Burleson will be able to play sooner than later. He was asked if he knows when he'll be ready.
"I don't," he said. "It's almost safe to list him as day-to-day."
Burleson has not yet played in the preseason.
"He responded and we discussed what happened in the game and he responded and had some good practices for us."
Pettine said that he thinks the pending suspension is still weighing on him.
"I think it's human nature," Pettine said. "It's definitely weighing on him. He wants to move forward and get on with it. It can be draining."
It's been nearly two weeks since Gordon had his appeal hearing and the decision could come down this weekend.
Lighter Day: The Browns didn't practice in pads for the second-straight day. OL Joe Thomas was given his scheduled weekly day off from practice.
Bryant Timeline: DL Desmond Bryant underwent surgery to repair a wrist injury on Monday. Bryant's return to play status will not be re-evaluated for at least two weeks, according to the Browns, which puts his status in doubt for the season opener.
Next Up: The Browns will have a walk through on Friday at FirstEnergy Stadium. It will be the first time for most of the team and coaches to be at the stadium. The Browns will play their first preseason game at home on Saturday at 8 pm against the Rams. It is the first game being played since FirstEnergy Stadium has been renovated. The renovation will feature new state of the art scoreboards.
Pettine said he expects the starters to play at least the first half and possibly into the third quarter depending on how many plays they get.