On a soggy Thursday in Berea, we're holding an umbrella as we rifle through this week's mailbag.
The Browns need to run the ball 25-30 times a game with Crow getting at least 20/25 carries. Why aren't they? -- Gary K., Coldwater
After three games, the Browns are averaging just a shade over 25 running attempts per game. In last week's trip to Miami, the Browns rushed 32 times for a season-best 169 yards. Every week the Browns have gotten better running the ball, and they'll hope to continue that trend Sunday against the Redskins, who rank 24th in the league in rush defense.
On Monday, Browns coach Hue Jackson sounded committed to maintaining and expanding this kind of production. Of course, the circumstances of the the game play a big part in whether or not that's a possibility. Even as it trailed by 11 in last week's fourth quarter, Cleveland stuck with a balanced attack that included a new wrinkle in Terrelle Pryor as a Wildcat quarterback. He contributed 21 of the team's 169 yards on the ground.
Through three weeks, the Browns are fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (144.7) and second in yards per attempt (5.7). They were near last for most of 2015.
"We are running the ball a lot better than I think a lot of people think we could. We are going to continue to get better at it. We are just scratching the surface of what I think we can be," Jackson said. "The fun part for me is there was a preseason, and now, I'm truly getting to know who are guys are in the season. Sometimes, you get an idea of who you are and you get an idea of who they are at practice, but when you start playing against other competition, you really start to see. Our guys are expressing themselves in different ways."
I like what I'm seeing from fullback Malcolm Johnson. Can we expect to see him take on a bigger roll carrying the ball? -- Brian H., Mansfield
Johnson has been used sparingly this season but he's been productive when called upon. His block of Eric Weddle spurred Crowell's 85-yard run against the Ravens in Week 2. Running backs coach/run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said last week he's liked what he's seen from Johnson, who has yet to carry the ball since he entered the NFL and never did during his career at Mississippi State.
"Malcolm understands that a fullback in our system has to change our offense when he steps on the football field," Wilson said. "He has to come in the game with a fullback demeanor that he is aggressive, he plays with aggression, and that he is the first one to strike people. I need a dirty truck driver out there. I do not need a guy who wants to catch a lot of passes and who wants to touch the football."
Has Josh Gordon been allowed to practice with the team while under suspension? And if he has, how does he look? Will he be physically ready when he comes off suspension? -- Philip B., Toledo
Gordon has not been permitted to practice but he has been allowed to spend time in the facility, which is tremendously valuable during this kind of suspension. At the end of the preseason, Gordon was confident he'd be able to pick up where he left off when he was cleared to practice and play.
"I know going into the regular season, I'll be here with the team working out with our training staff, make sure I stay in shape and am able to be at the point to pick up where I left off from this last preseason game," he said. "Hopefully, the transition is very smooth for me."
Is it possible that we might get Nassib back for the New England game, so that Brady gets welcomed back properly with his relentless pressure? -- Rusty S., Southington, Connecticut
Nassib, who is considered week to week with a broken hand, won't be back for this Sunday's game against the Redskins but the possibility certainly exists for a Week 5 return. More will be known about Nassib's status starting Wednesday of next week. It'd be a big boost to the Browns defense, which will also return Armonty Bryant, who is serving a four-game suspension to start the season.
Speaking of …
Assuming when Armonty Bryant returns and is a starter, whose spot likely would he take? -- Danny B., Jerusalem, Israel
That's to be determined, and he may not necessarily take someone's spot, per say. The Browns have used a lot of different players as pass rushers, including new arrivals Corey Lemonier and Tyrone Holmes. This has allowed the group to stay fresh throughout the game, and it paid off in a big way at the end of last week's game at Miami, when Lemonier strip-sacked Ryan Tannehill. So Bryant may simply be another piece in what would become a deeper rotation.