Childress: 'It all starts up front'

Posted Dec 14, 2012

Coordinator Brad Childress said the success of the offense starts with the line.

The Cleveland Browns rushed for 1,531 yards and four touchdowns as a team during the 2011 season. Former Brown Peyton Hillis led the team with 587 yards and three touchdowns on 161 carries, while Chris Ogbonnaya and Montario Hardesty combined for 600 yards and one score on 161 attempts.

The Browns addressed the running back position with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, when they traded up to select Trent Richardson from the University of Alabama.

Already this season, the Browns have rushed for 1,306 yards and 10 touchdowns on 337 carries. Richardson has accounted for 869 of those yards and tied a Browns rookie record with nine rushing touchdowns on 247 attempts.

“I think the thing with the offensive line is, it all starts up front,” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “On offense and defense, it all starts up front. I recognize that, even though as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, it all starts up front.”

While the Browns are on pace to rush for more yards and score more touchdowns with the ground game this season, they are also on pace to allow fewer sacks on the quarterback. In 2011, they gave up 32 sacks for 173 lost yards.

This year, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has been sacked 24 times for 159 lost yards.

“You don’t do anything unless those guys are exerting their will on somebody else in front of them,” Childress said. “They know I feel that way. I think they’re doing a better job of exerting their will because that’s what it really comes down to. Obviously, a defensive lineman is going to try and exert his will against you. That’s probably the highest form of flattery when you say it’s a physical offensive line. They’re getting there. They’re not all there yet, but they’re getting there.”

In breaking down the performance of the Browns’ offensive line this season, Childress was quick to credit center Alex Mack, who has started 61 straight games since the team selected him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

“Alex is extremely smart; (he’s) really, really, really competitive,” Childress said. “I mean competitive, not just with the guy over him, but competitive to make the right calls because he’s kind of the quarterback of that offensive line. I just think he’s outstanding that way. He plays with good leverage for being a bigger guy. He bends well, is able to use his leverage and he continues to get better and better. I don’t know how many are better than him, but I wouldn’t say there’s a lot better than him.”

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