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Browns Mailbag: How does the Browns run game overcome injuries, get back on track?

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

It's an unseasonably warm Friday in Northeast Ohio, but make no mistake: We're in the heart of football season, and the crisp fall weather will be back for Sunday's game in Cincinnati.

We're taking on four of your questions while we prepare for another pivotal AFC North matchup.

What is the key to preventing the fourth quarter collapses we have been seeing? Granted, we have not lost but it is clear to see that our team struggles after having a hefty lead. — Cameron B., Chillicothe

If only every quarter could be like the second quarter, am I right? That's when the Browns have been at their absolute best this season. The Browns have scored a whopping 79 points in the second quarter this season. That's 18 more than they've had in the entire second halves of games this year. When it comes to closing games out, the Browns simply have to be better and more punishing to their opponents. Saying it is one thing, but doing it is an entirely different deal in the NFL. Lopsided results are rare, and every team seemingly makes a late push. The key for Cleveland is finding the right mix of run and pass to ensure the clock keeps running while also keeping the opposing defense on its heels. The good news is, the Browns have had the lead for the vast majority of the games they've won, and you'll take that any day. The next step for Cleveland is playing a full, 60-minute game, and it will look to accomplish just that Sunday in Cincinnati.

With the return of Ronnie Harrison Jr., will Sheldrick Redwine get some playing time at free safety? — Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia

We'll find out Sunday, and it's worth noting a couple of other developments at safety this week. Veteran Andrew Sendejo, who hasn't missed a snap this season, sat out Wednesday's practice and was limited Thursday with a shin injury. Karl Joseph, Cleveland's starter at strong safety when healthy, has been back at practice this week after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. The Browns certainly appear to have more options at the position this week, and Redwine has certainly held his own when called upon. He made one of the biggest plays of the season when he intercepted Philip Rivers late in the action of Cleveland's Week 5 win over the Colts, and he looked solid last week against the Steelers.

"We are looking for guys that can make plays on defense and get that rock, and Ronnie has done it. Karl has played at a high level for us," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think we are fortunate that we have played a lot of guys early in this season already due to injury, which is not ideal, but guys are getting a lot of reps and we are comfortable with playing guys back there, and if guys' their numbers are called, they have a baseline of reps to work off."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Cincinatti Bengals

The Browns offensive line has played well but the blitzing linebackers have proven difficult. Will the running game rebound as both Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller have been a great combination this year? — Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia

Diagnosing what's gone wrong — or perhaps not so right — for the Browns ground game over the past two weeks is tricky. Is it because Chubb's been out for the past 11 quarters and Teller's missed the past seven? Is it because the Colts and Steelers have two of the best rush defenses in the NFL? Is it because teams are getting hip to what the Browns are trying to accomplish? Is it because what the Browns did through the first four weeks of the season simply wasn't sustainable? Or have the Browns just not executed the way they're capable of?

The boring answer is probably the correct one: A little bit of all of this is the likely reason why production has dropped off, but it's important to remember the Browns still carry the top-ranked rushing attack in the NFL heading into Sunday's game in Cincinnati. No one's averaging more rushing yards per game than the Browns (169.5), even after last week's season-low in Pittsburgh. What the Browns have tried to do on the ground has mostly worked, and there's a fairly large sample size to back it up.

"It is just a matter of getting back out there and making sure we are being who we are," Stefanski said.

The Browns have no shortage of confidence they can get the run game clicking like it was earlier in the season. It stems from the players' confidence in themselves and the scheme in which they're operating.

"Kareem (Hunt) is a hell of a runner," C JC Tretter said. "We are kind of looking to have that big game. He kind of blocked up the looks, and last week again, we did not do a good enough job opening up holes for anybody who was back there. It does not matter whether it is Nick, Kareem, Dontrell (Hilliard) or D’Ernest (Johnson). It does not matter who is back there. We have to open up the holes better. We have to keep doing that and come into this week and look to do that."

What happened to the DB Donovan Olumba who had such a good training camp? From the newspaper articles, he was having a good camp. — Andre E., Monterey, California

Olumba remains a free agent, though he's worked out for a handful of teams in recent weeks. Olumba had a good training camp, but the Browns went in a different direction with the cornerbacks they had.

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