BEREA — After a good performance against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns’ running game struggled last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Trent Richardson had 27 yards on 12 carries for a dismal average per carry of 2.3 yards. However, he did find the end zone for the second-straight week.
“We’ve got to get more out of the (running game),” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Tuesday. “I think it’s fair to say that. Especially, early in the game, you want to be able to run and throw the ball when you want to.”
Shurmur said circumstances more than anything took the Browns out of their plan.
“We were faced for most of the middle of the game there down by 14,” he said. “Ideally, you would like to be able to get ahead by halftime, be ahead. Then you can lean on the running game a little bit more in the third and fourth quarter.
“That’s the ideal situation. When the game does not play out that way, then the numbers get skewed a little bit. Trent had 12 rushes, but we threw him the ball, so he had 18 touches, more than anybody else. That happens.”
Richardson has 175 yards on the season on 50 carries for a season average of 3.5 yards, including two touchdowns. He caught six passes against the Bills for 24 yards to put him in the team lead in that department, as well, with 11 receptions for 65 yards (5.9 avg.) and a score.
The longest run against the Bills was the six-yard touchdown by Richardson.
“Right,” Shurmur said. “We’ve got to get more out of it. We didn’t have any explosive runs.”
Offensive coordinator Brad Childress said the Browns have to loosen up the defense a bit by hitting some long passes.
“A couple of those ‘go’ balls would’ve helped,” Childress said. “We had a couple of opportunities that tend to loosen up the defense for the running game.”
Childress said, ideally, if the rushing game can get at least four yards on first down that would take some of the pressure off.
“We have to get Trent to the second level,” Childress said. “We have to play better on the offensive front.”
One missing component in last week’s loss to the Bills was the absence of tight end Alex Smith. He suffered a concussion against the Bengals when Richardson rushed for 109 yards with a score and a 5.7 average. His status is in doubt for Thursday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
“Alex is a tough guy and he does a good job for us when he’s in there,” Shurmur said. “I wouldn’t say the tight ends blocked poorly in his absence. We went and used different personnel groupings a little bit more because we only had two tight ends. I think generally speaking, we’ve just all got to do a better job, whether you’re an offensive lineman or you’re blocking the perimeter. I think it’s fair to say we have to play better.”
If Smith doesn’t play again, the Browns will count on Ben Watson and Jordan Cameron to carry the load at tight end. The pair combined for nine of the Browns receptions against Buffalo. Cameron had a breakout game receiving with five receptions for 45 yards, while Watson had four catches for 15 yards.
Left tackle Joe Thomas knows the task this week isn’t going to be any easier.
“(Baltimore) is a really good defense,” Thomas said. “They do a lot of good stuff. They are solid up front and have good linebackers and a really good defensive line.”
However, the Ravens currently are uncharacteristically ranked 27th overall defensively and 18th against the run.
Injury Update: WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring) and Smith (concussion) did not practice once again on Tuesday and were listed as doubtful on the first injury report for this week’s game. DB Sheldon Brown (chest), WR Josh Cribbs (knee), LB James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique) and DB Ray Ventrone (hand) practiced on a limited basis and are questionable. OL Jason Pinkston (ankle), DL Frostee Rucker (wrist), RB Trent Richardson (knee) and LS Christian Yount (shoulder) were probable.
Shurmur said time is limited for Massaquoi and Smith.
“(Massaquoi’s) going to be day-to-day,” he said on Monday. “There are not many days (until the game), so we’ll see.”
Shurmur echoed the same on Smith.
“(He’s) day-to-day, as well.”
Shurmur was asked Tuesday about the pair.
“I’m not talking about lineup changes or injuries.”
Jauron on Secondary: Jauron said the coaching staff felt they needed more production from the free safety position and thus the decision to replace S Eric Hagg with S Usama Young and rookie S Tashaun Gipson.
“We have a lot of young players and are giving them all an opportunity to play,” he said. “We felt we needed more production at the position and they all showed up and made some plays.”
Jauron admitted the loss of CB Joe Haden has had an effect on the defense.
“You never want to be without your starting corner,” he said. “It has some effect.”
Young Beef: The Browns rookies on the defensive line have done a good job filling in for DL Phil Taylor. John Hughes was drafted in the third round and Billy Winn in the sixth round.
“I think those guys are giving us good play,” Shurmur said. “John Hughes has played well and Billy Winn has flashed.”
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron agreed.
“They have done a really good job,” Jauron said. “I think they are only going to get better and I am really happy with them.”
Shurmur said the experience they are getting has been invaluable.
“They’ll get a feel for the blocking schemes and the little things you get from playing.”
Not Home Sweet Home: An alarming trend is taking place at Browns home games with opposing teams’ fans that don’t have to travel far to see their team play. Against the Bills on Sunday, Cleveland Browns Stadium was nearly empty at the end of the game, except for Bills fans.
“I would say this, we have to establish a winning tradition at home and that won’t be the case,” Shurmur said. “End of story.”
In recent years, Steelers fans have inundated the stadium, as well.
Lewis Getting Ring: Former Browns and Ravens RB Jamal Lewis will be inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor at halftime of the Browns and Ravens game on Thursday night.
Bubba Captain: Shurmur announced that DB Ray Ventrone is the fourth captain for this week’s game. He will join OL Joe Thomas, LB D’Qwell Jackson and K Phil Dawson as the team’s captain for the Ravens game.
Refs Take: Shurmur was asked about his thoughts on the final play of the Packers/Seahawks when it looked as though the replacement referees made the wrong call that cost the Packers the game on a Hail Mary.
“I have a lot of thoughts, but no comments,” he said.
Shurmur was asked if the analogy of the replacement referees being similar to a substitute teacher with the players trying to get away with more.
“I do remember the substitute teacher thing, but don’t think it’s the same.”
Shurmur said in his addressing the team, he talks about avoiding distractions.
“We don’t worry about that, regardless of the surroundings,” Shurmur said. “You have to insulate yourself and go play.”