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Ben Tate's attitude just as important as his running style


The Cleveland Browns did not shy away about the open competitions they held in training camp. Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, both guard positions on the offensive line, linebacker and cornerback were all up for grabs.

And out of all of those competitions, the one at running back might've been settled the quickest.

"Ben has taken on the role of being the starting running back and run with it," said left tackle Joe Thomas. "From day one, he was clearly a guy that understood the offense the most, that was expecting the ball, was making the least amount of mistakes, the most amount of nice runs."

In preseason games against the Lions and Redskins, Tate was practically the only thing functioning properly on offense for the Browns. His combined 16 carries for 71 yards gave Dawg Pound faithful and the coaching staff a much needed sigh of relief during a turbulent period on offense.

Arguably as important as Tate's early success is the attitude he's brought into the running backs room. Tate isn't quiet about being underappreciated in Houston.

When asked by a reporter if he thinks he's capable of being the Browns' third down running back, Tate quickly responded, "Since I walked into the league day one, I thought I could do those things. It was unfortunate I was behind a guy that could do those things as well. To me, [making plays on third down] is not anything new, really."

"You can tell he's got a confidence about him," said Browns head coach Mike Pettine. "He does have a chip on his shoulder. He's out to prove something."

So the storm is perfect, because the Browns are in desperate need of a running back willing to grab the torch and run with the offense. Willis McGahee led the tattered Browns rushing attack with a trifling 377 yards, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. In some cases, the Browns abandoned running the football in 2013 before the game even started.

The Browns' offensive system will lean on Tate and the offensive line setting up anything and everything – including tight end Jordan Cameron. In the grand scheme of things, Tate's ability to churn out yards will directly influence Cameron's impact in the passing game.

"I would say last year we probably ran the ball once a game," said Cameron, half-jokingly. "I think this year is going to be much different. We'll have some more balance and I think we will."

Now when NFL defenses study for Cleveland, they must prepare as if the Browns may run up to 30 times a game.  

"There's only a few teams like us," said Thomas about emphasizing the running game before the pass. "It's definitely going to be very, very important this year to effectively and efficiently run the ball."

There is pressure on Tate. He knows this. It's no secret NFL teams are going to test Brian Hoyer and the Browns' receivers, challenging the committee of pass-catchers to beat them through the air. The Steelers will likely put extra linebackers and safeties near the line of scrimmage, in hopes of stifling the Cleveland running attack. It'll be up to Tate to bulldoze through the traffic.

"It's going to be a challenge when they have eight in the box, it's going to be a challenge to move those guys," said Tate. "It's going to be a lot of pounding my head on the wall for a while."

When the Browns players are lined up next to each other during the National Anthem on Sunday in Pittsburgh, everyone will have their story.

Hoyer and Travis Benjamin will be returning from ACL surgery. Rookies Joel Bitonio and Chris Kirksey will play vital roles in their first ever NFL game, both with heavy hearts without their fathers. Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner star in a refurbished defensive attack. Of course, Mike Pettine officially mans the sideline for the first time.

But don't forget about Ben Tate's moment either. He's waited three years for this chance – a chance to reestablish smash mouth football in Cleveland and be THE guy, once and for all.

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