The Cleveland Browns knew that life was going to be more difficult after losing running back Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.
Since that fateful night in Pittsburgh, the Browns have relied on a “running back by committee” approach to the ground game with Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt as the primary backs; Pierre Strong Jr. chipping in where he can; and some supplemental contributions from quarterbacks Deshaun Watson, Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker.
It hasn’t always felt like it, but somehow the Browns have been able to combine all of those efforts and head into today’s game against the Denver Broncos averaging 142.7 rushing yards per game, which puts them as third best in the league. Cleveland is also second in rushing attempts (343) and is averaging a mostly respectable 4.2 yards per carry.
Looking at those numbers is a bit surprising as the running backs have struggled in two of the past three games. Against the Arizona Cardinals, the trio of Ford, Hunt and Strong combined to average just 2.46 yards per carry on 37 attempts, while last week against the Steelers it was 2.72 yards per carry on 25 rushes.
The fact that the Browns won both of those games is perhaps an indicator that the whole is better than the sum of the parts when it comes to the running game, or that it’s not how many yards you gain as long as you gain the yards you need at the right time.
Still, with DTR set to make the first two road starts of his NFL against the Broncos and then the Los Angeles Rams getting the running game going to support the rookie quarterback sounds like a good plan.
And the Broncos could present a perfect opportunity for that to occur as outside of forcing turnovers - 10 in the past three games - Denver’s defense does not do anything very well.
The Broncos are allowing a league-high 71.2 percent completion percentage, have given up the fourth most receiving touchdowns, and have the No. 31 ranked pass defense. The run defense is even worse as the Broncos are No. 32 in rushing yards allowed (1,600) and yards per carry (5.5).
If Thompson-Robinson and the offense can avoid turning the ball over there should be ample opportunity to make a play on offense, especially in the running game.
Running the ball and playing stout defense can go a long way toward calming the nerves of a rookie quarterback, and Sunday’s tilt against the Broncos looks to be the perfect opportunity for the Browns to do just that and play their way into yet another Victory Monday.