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Four Downs: Browns have options at RB, and they could vary week to week


1. Browns have options at RB, and they could vary week to week

The long-anticipated Browns debut of Robert Turbin came Sunday against the Broncos. He performed admirably, carrying the ball 10 times for 27 yards against a tough Denver defense.

So, now what?

Turbin had 10 carries, Duke Johnson Jr. had nine and Isaiah Crowell led the way with 11. That's good for an average of 10 apiece.

Is that what Browns fans should expect Sunday against the Rams and moving forward into the second half of the season? Not exactly.

"People look at that (competition) as a problem, but we see it as a good problem to have," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "I don't think we're going to go into a game and say, 'Hey, we want to get X number of touches to each of these guys.' Some of that will be a function of what the defense is giving us, how they want to play us, and then at the same time, Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) will have it coordinated where certain plays will be for certain backs, and he'll have those personnel groupings tagged accordingly."

Some of the Browns' best rushing performances last season came when three different players received five or more carries. That wasn't much of an option this year until Turbin returned, as Shaun Draughn, who was released this week, was primarily used on special teams.

During the preseason, Pettine implored one of his running backs to seize the job and run with it. Crowell emerged as the Game 1 starter and Terrance West, who boasted a similar skill set to Crowell's, was traded to the Titans.

Now, the way Pettine sees it, he has three running backs that can affect the game in a unique way.

"If you went running back continuum," Pettine said, "I think we have a guy at each end, and I think Crow slides somewhere in between."

On one end is Johnson, who has been dangerous out of the backfield as a pass-catcher, and on the other is Turbin, who is a bruiser between the tackles.

"I am still learning about Robert, but I really like what I see so far. I really do," DeFilippo said. "I think he is a powerful runner. I think he is strong."

2. It's all in the hands

Pettine's eyes light up every time he talks about the one asset that separates Pierre Desir from other cornerbacks.

At a rangy 6-foot-2, Desir has a wingspan that separates him from most other defensive backs. His arms were measured as 33 inches at the NFL Combine. When he applies the proper technique at the line of scrimmage, it's hard for a wide receiver to be where he's supposed to be in enough time for the quarterback to find him.

When Desir reviews the film of plays that didn't go his way, there's often a common denominator: a lapse in his technique.

"He's that type of corner," Pettine said. "I don't know exactly what his timed speed was coming out, but he's not along the lines of like a Buster (Skrine) that ran so well that even if he missed, he had that make up speed. The one thing for our corners is we want to take advantage of the rule. The one rule that's really in favor of the defense is that we can get hands on in the initial 5 yards. When Pierre's done that, the receiver is essentially erased from the play.

"Our guys talk about, whether he is on on the scout team or whether it was during training camp, that Pierre was potentially the most difficult guy to get off of press."

3. He said it

There was plenty of chatter about close games and how the Browns can come out on top of them on a more regular basis.

Veteran offensive lineman Joe Thomas has fielded this question more than once. After delivering a familiar answer, Thomas was asked if he's been giving the same answer ever since he joined the Browns in 2007.

"It is never going to change, even if you ask me for eight more years," Thomas said. "That is the difference in close games. You hate to lose close games. Everyone comes up with magical reasons why you lost, but then, when you win a close game, you think you somehow found a magic potion when everybody knows it just comes down to executing one or two more plays than the other team."

4. One last stat…

Travis Benjamin needs just 189 more receiving yards to match the number of yards (717) he amassed during his first three seasons combined with the Browns.

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