On paper, the Browns running backs didn't have a banner day in last week's preseason opener. With just 55 yards on 30 carries, the trio of Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson Jr. and Nick Chubb weren't breaking off long runs at will.
But more goes into the running backs' room than the yards and carries.
"What we're looking for is consistency up front, consistency at the tight end position, consistency at the wide receiver position and, of course, consistency at the running back position," Browns running backs coach Freddie Kitchens said Tuesday.
Consistency, Kitchens said, is what makes the running game go. Granted, the first-team offense only played eight snaps, and two of them were runs: a 1-yard loss by Hyde and a 3-yard pickup by Johnson. Chubb ran with Baker Mayfield behind the second-string offense. It was hard to create continuity with so few plays.
Of course, the Browns are also without starting right guard Kevin Zeitler. They're transitioning Joel Bitonio to left tackle. Nearly the entire offensive line is retooling. But they're working at it.
Kitchens has an emphasis on the vision from the backfield. Vision can be taught to an extent, but sometimes, it's on the instincts of the running back. Kitchens'] wants his backs to find running room, even if that means peeking to the back-side defensive lineman.
In his first NFL action on Thursday, Chubb was largely greeted by a host of defensive linemen rather than running lanes. The lack of success early caused Chubb to press, and Kitchens knows that tends to happen with rookies.
"You just have to read and react to what you see at that moment," Kitchens said. "I thought that he pressed a little bit the other night. That was the only thing that I was disappointed in was him pressing. He was still physical when he hit the hole. When he hit the hole, he hit the hole. He started pressing and then maybe did not see as many things as he normally does."
Hyde and Johnson are both veterans; they know how to tote the ball. Kitchens isn't going to teach them how to hold a ball when they run, how to hit a hole or how to break free. Those are elementary ideas and teaching points. Instead, Kitchens will bestow his knowledge and insight on the intricacies and nuances of the running backs.
"I am not going to teach anybody how to run the football, but I can teach them where their eyes are and teach them not to press so much if you do not have early success," Kitchens said.
"Because you never know where the problem is coming from."