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Marla Ridenour on Sports

What's wrong with the running game?

By Marla Published: September 20, 2010

The most glaring and most mystifying regression in the Browns' offense through two games is the running game.

In the final four games of last season, the Browns led the league with 900 rushing yards, an average of 225 per game. In 2010, they have totalled 177, an average of 88.5.

Why the stunning decline?

Some could suggest the Browns piled up those numbers (and the resulting four victories) against teams with below-par run defenses. That argument has some merit in the case of Kansas City (351 total rushing yards) and Oakland (164). But not all those teams had suspect run defenses. The final NFL rankings for those four teams were third (Pittsburgh), 31st (Kansas City), 29th (Oakland) and 19th (Jacksonville).

The Browns offensive line must assume its share of the blame. The right side has been unsettled, with injuries to Shawn Lauvao (ankle) and Tony Pashos (shoulder in training camp) scuttling the plan to start Lauvao at right guard and Floyd Womack at right tackle. Thus far, Womack has been at the guard spot and John St. Clair at right tackle.

But the left side cannot be absolved and appears to be playing below its 2009 standards.

Fullback Lawrence Vickers finished the season looking like a Pro Bowler. But in Sunday's loss to Kansas City,  Vickers didn't seem to be blowing up people the few times I watched him. Once running back Jerome Harrison followed him, but no hole developed, leaving Harrison running up Vickers' back.

Harrison wanted more touches after getting just nine in the season-opening loss at Tampa Bay. He had 16 attempts Sunday and picked up 33 yards. He was more effective in the passing game, with three catches for 35 yards. He must share a big part of the blame, especially after losing a fumble that led to a Chiefs field goal. After fumbling twice at Detroit, Harrison vowed to clean up those mistakes.

Perhaps the running game is struggling because the Browns have no threats at wide receiver. But the running game is an area that must improve quickly before the season declines into oblivion.



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