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Browns vs. Steelers: John DeFilippo Addresses the Running Back Rotation - The Sunday Five

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 10 matchup today against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I look at some tension forming in Berea, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo addressing the running back rotation, some new additions to the club and what their impact could be, and more.

1. Pettine's Quick Trigger: I don't have insider access over at the OBR, but Waiting for Next Year highlighted some of the issues in Berea that were brought up by Lane Adkins. Specifically, WFNY discusses how Pettine's treatment of the players on the roster isn't equal and once he's "done with you," you're pretty much buried as a backup. Reportedly, Pettine "never wanted Manziel here" and was an advocate of drafting CB Justin Gilbert, but once he "saw how immature he was," he was turned off and basically moved on rather than taking the time to see what he could salvage.

The article also says, "Some in this building believe Pettine has made some playing decisions to spite GM Ray Farmer." Much of these things are stuff that we've already read between the lines on, and I know we've discredited some things that a person like Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports has "brought to light" in the past. When it comes to inside Browns news, though, when Adkins talks, I'm always listening. I understand that sometimes, as a coach, you have to move on from mistakes, but what about working with these players to instill the beliefs and skills you want them to have? And, if Adkins is hearing this from sources in Berea, then you can bet that everyone in that organization, from players to coaches and front office executives, recognize at least some form of tension. And what is the one factor that can increase that tension exponentially from week-to-week? When a team keeps losing.

2. The Running Back Rotation: I want to highlight what offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said about the team's running back situation this past Thursday, including the second-half utilization of RB Duke Johnson:

On needing to make more of an effort to get RB Duke Johnson Jr. the ball: "Yes and no. Against Arizona, we were trying to play three tailbacks and trying to see three guys. That is hard. It is hard. That is why last week against Cincinnati I went to Coach (Head Coach Mike Pettine) and said I think it is the best thing for our football team if we rolled with two backs. I think the product of Duke not seeing a lot of action in the second half was kind of what we did as a unit and me, too – I am part of it – of not having a lot of plays. Then, we went to put Duke in for the two-minute drive, but he was getting re-taped because I think he had tweaked his foot or ankle. It was a product of a couple of those things."

On why the Browns got away from the run in the second half against Cincinnati game: "That is a good question. Three of those passes we had in the second half were run/pass options where we ended up throwing the football. I was trying to get us in a rhythm. I was trying to do anything to make sure to get us the first down. There were a couple situations where I tried to just put the ball in play with a boot, with a roll out pass or something like that and just put the ball in play. It didn’t work out in our favor. Looking back on it, maybe instead of giving a run/pass option, maybe you just run the football. Every play I call, I have what I think is going to give us the best chance for success. It is not like I am just saying I’m not going to run it. Every play I call, and there are a lot of them, I think that is going to give our team the best chance for success."

Boy, it's like night-and-day listening to a drained Pettine versus an informative DeFilippo these days. When he talks about the Arizona game, he says that they "wanted to see three guys." Guess when the time to see three guys is? Either when you're winning a blowout, or you're being blown out already -- not when it's a game within reach. I'm thankful that DeFilippo made the pitch for a two-back system against Cincinnati, because that aligns with my thinking of letting your primary running back get hot with more touches. I also appreciate a guy who is willing to take responsibility, and he explained why the straight up run plays were lacking in the second half last week. I can live with that. DeFilippo is learning and, more importantly, adjusting to circumstances.

3. Roster Changes: After we returned to a two-back system, could we be right back to a three-back system now that RB Glenn Winston has replaced Turbin? I think not, as we take a listen to DeFilippo sagain:

On why it didn’t work out with former RB Robert Turbin: "It wasn’t anything that Robert did or didn’t do. I think anytime you are a player and you come in late and you don’t have spring, you don’t have summer and you come in midseason, it is tough. I think that is hard, hard deal to fill. It is nothing that Robert did or didn’t do. It was just a matter of we really feel high on (RB) Glenn Winston, and there was a spot that needed to be made."

I think DeFilippo convinced Pettine that the team only needs two primary backs, which makes Turbin useless. When it comes to that third insurance back, the team prefers Winston over Turbin. The other addition this week is CB Charles Gaines. If we go back to the first bullet point, I think Pettine was in love with this kid in the preseason. Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil talked him up on Thursday:

On DB Charles Gaines returning from injury: "He’s in great shape. I think our people in the building have done a great with him. I think he’s lost about 12 to 15 pounds. He’s back to his weight which he was at the combine. He looks faster, looks leaner, quicker. He’s going to be a part of our game plan this week. He’s a guy that I hated to put on that IR/designated to return because he was playing so well at the end of training camp. He had a really good practice yesterday. We’re going to see what happens today or tomorrow, and that will determine how big or how small his role will be in this gameplan."

On what Gaines does well: "He can blitz. He can play man coverage. He’s got inside and outside versatility, meaning he can play outside corner or he can play inside at the nickel so he gives us some depth at both those spots. He’s as competitive as a guy. You like his attitude. He just brings something. He’s charismatic. He’s not scared to talk a little trash and put himself out there. He just brings a different element to that group."

It wouldn't surprise me if Gaines passes even Desir on the depth chart and plays a lot of meaningful snaps in today's game.

4. A Change at Kick Returner? You have to wonder if the Browns are already ready to ditch the experiment of CB Justin Gilbert returning kickoffs. He had a kickoff against Cincinnati that he only returned to the 8 yard line, and he nearly fumbled on the play (ironically, that ended up leading to the Browns' only touchdown drive of the game). By the end of the game, though, WR Marlon Moore was back there returning kickoffs, despite being the team's No. 3 receiver on the day. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor was asked on Thursday about the possibility of using another kickoff returner:

On if DB Justin Gilbert has become more tentative returning kicks: "I don’t think so. Sometimes, we give him parameters. I think he’s been very good with regards to his parameters. There are also other things – we call a return one way and they kicked it the other way, and he knows that logistically it’s not a good set up for him to bring it out so he’s playing smart football. The outside eye might say, ‘Wow, he should probably bring that out,’ but really in reality, it’s a smart play by him. I think his time will come. I’m still excited about where he’s going and what he’s doing. We’ll see. The weather is changing – obviously, quite a bit today."

On if Moore will return kickoffs: "He’s definitely in the mix. Got a whole host of guys, whether that be (DB Justin) Gilbert or Marlon Moore, (RB) Duke Johnson (Jr.). There are a lot of guys I think that we can go to. Like I said, as the weather is changing here, this is kind of the time of year for special teams returners to get it going a little bit."

5. Projecting the Inactives for the Browns vs. Steelers: It's time to predict the inactives on gameday, as the team can only dress 46 players. The players we know for sure will be inactive this week are LG Joel Bitonio, CB Joe Haden, and CB Donte Whitner. The other four inactives I'm projecting are QB Austin Davis, WR Dwayne Bowe, TE E.J. Bibbs, S Don Jones.