Preseason Week 1 is in the books for the Cleveland Browns. While there are many things to feel optimistic about, the running game is not one of them.
Perhaps the only strong point of the Cleveland Browns preseason debut, as far as running the ball goes, is that they stuck with it. 33 carries is a great improvement over much of the regular season in 2017.
While it is not yet time to go into panic mode, as described by Dan Justik of Dawg Pound Daily, it is certainly nothing to cheer about either.
Justik summarizes his thoughts with this tidbit, which I agree wholeheartedly with:
"If the Browns run game is as inefficient the entire preseason like it was in the first game, then it would be understandable to have concerns. But fans should not freak out about the results of the team’s first preseason game."
That is exactly it — it was the first preseason game. Consider that the Browns top two backs, Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, each had only one carry and Nick Chubb was running behind the No. 2 offensive line while receiving the bulk of the workload.
With that said, Chubb was ineffective to say the least. Per NFL.com, both Matt Dayes and Baker Mayfield collected more yards rushing (13) with only three carries each than Chubb amassed (11) in his 15 carries.
I certainly agree with Justik in that there is not need for fans to worry yet, but fans will certainly hope to see a much improved effort come game two on Friday against the Buffalo Bills.
The fact of the matter is that, until the starters get significant reps, fans will not know what to expect the 2018 season to yield. A continued effort to establish the running game is welcomed and more carries certainly allow for sustained productivity. Too many times in 2017, it appeared as if Hue Jackson forgot his team had running backs altogether, something that new offfensive coordinator Todd Haley should remedy.
Once the offensive line grows accustomed to their new positions and the starters begin to gel, things will certainly improve. Once the coaching staff has opportunity to evaluate the talent and determine who the “hot hand” will be, things will improve.
While it was only the first preseason game, it was certainly disheartening to watch run after run yield little. Fans must take what wins they are afforded, and the quarterbacks offered enough to suffice, for now.
The Cleveland Browns must grow to be a dominant force on the ground to have a legitimate chance to contend in the AFC North. For many, myself included, there is little hope found thus far in the running game. There is also, little cause for concern until a valid effort is mounted.
Once we see what the first-team offers we will have a better view of reality. We must also remain patient and let young rookie Nick Chubb be just that, a rookie. The game is not learned overnight, nor is the speed fluctuation from the college game to the NFL.
We should hope that Chubb has found alot to grow upon and allow him to make adjustments as needed. The same goes for the second-team offensive line and their struggles to provide sufficient holes. It is merely the first steps of a marathon and the only pure take on the 2018 Cleveland Browns running game, is that we haven’t seen enough to know anything yet.
The optimism surrounding the team continues and as the pieces fall together, much will improve. Whatever needs remain, glaring or otherwise, will become clear in time. I look forward to a brutal ground-and-pound running game in the heart of winter, but whether this winter will yield one remains to be seen.