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Browns offense focused on sustainability as season opener nears

Throughout this preseason, the Browns offense has had its share of highs and lows. A knack for striking on big plays, however, has remained a constant.

Most recently, it was a 43-yard touchdown pass quarterback Robert Griffin III threw to Josh Gordon, which provided a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish Friday night against the Buccaneers.

Before that against the Falcons, the Browns scored on a 50-yard pass to Terrelle Pryor and a 29-yard throw to tight end Gary Barnidge, a series of plays that ignited the crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium and offered, perhaps, a glimpse of what could be the norm this regular season.

Even so, head coach Hue Jackson demands more from a retooled offense as Cleveland looks toward its preseason finale against the Bears and the season opener at Philadelphia in two weeks.

"I love the big plays," Jackson said Saturday on a conference call, "but I feel like we can't be a team that just relies on big plays offensively. We need to sustain drives."

It's what Jackson calls "progression football," something the Browns have worked toward mastering over the course of the past few months. "At the end of the day, we're not a team that just flips the ball up anywhere," Jackson said last week. "There's a reason we do what we do on every play."

Griffin, who was named the starting quarterback earlier this month, said consistency is key moving forward.

"The only way to try to score is to try to score. That's what we're trying to do every time we go out there and play so we've got guys that can make those plays, but those same can make the underneath plays that keep drives going. And it starts with me, I have to be more consistent to allow us to do those things," he said.

Griffin added: "The objective is to score points. At the end of the day, no one's going to say, 'Well, they had this many drives and they didn't score on these drives but they scored on these ones.' If you're winning the game, that's what it's about it.

"But coach has harped on us to make sure we're doing everything the right way. So if we can execute and hit the big plays, then we have to be able to execute and hit the small ones, and that's what we're focused on."

The Browns have also made it clear they want to run the ball better and saw improvement against the Buccaneers, as Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. combined for 61 yards on just 10 carries.

A sustainable offense, Jackson said, is something that "gets back to running the football. (Crowell) had some really good runs in there at times, but it was nothing sustainable that we can kind of hang our hat on."

"We will continue to get better. We are going to have to run the ball better than we have and we understand that," Jackson said. "We are going to have to throw the ball better than we have. At the same time, I did see some flashes of some things that I think we can build from."

Indeed, the Browns have been pleased by their growth so far. Now, they say it's time to take the next step.

"I think it's a gradual process that you go through, from the OTAs to minicamps to training camp, all the way through the preseason. We've been real focused in making sure we're paying attention to detail on everything that it's going to take to win," Griffin said.

"We've got guys on this team that have won Super Bowls and it's about using their leadership and what it takes to win the big game and apply that to our team, and we've taken that to heart."​

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