Hue Jackson, Isaiah Crowell excited to​ put Browns run game back on track

Isaiah Crowell flashed a wide smile Wednesday when asked about the Browns' offseason moves, which included fortifying an offensive line for him to run behind next season.

"I was just happy about it," the running back said. "I was happy about it just because I know how strongly (head coach) Hue (Jackson) wants to run the ball. We talked about it at the end of last year. He told me we would be way better running the ball this year, and I have faith in him and I believe him."

That has Crowell — who finished with 952 yards and seven touchdowns on 198 carries last season — feeling bullish heading into next season.

And behind a front that now returns Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio and added Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter in free agency, he and the Browns hope to get back to a run game that went through a series of highs and lows in 2016.

"(We've) got to run the ball more. I will be the first to tell you that," Jackson said. "I beat myself up about that. I'm a coach that likes to run the ball. We all recognize where we were in games last year, and trying to play from behind is hard, and understanding what our team was last year, feeling that you had to get off to a fast start to get ahead of a team because you knew how some things would unfold."

Indeed, after the first month of the season, the Browns led the league with 149.3 yards per game. That figure slipped to 60.5 yards as the team struggled over the next eight weeks. In the final month, they finished with 158 yards per outing.

Jackson said the Browns are now built to overcome that inconsistency.

"I credit our executive team for putting some linemen on our football team. Again, it starts up front. If we are going to make this big jump on our football team, it is going to be on both sides of the line," he said.

"That is where you win first. Obviously, we have got to have better quarterback play and better all-around team play, but you win with big people. You win with your defensive front and your offensive line, and those guys control the game."

And Crowell — whom Jackson said is poised for a big season — could stand to be among the biggest beneficiaries of that dynamic.

"He deserves it. He worked extremely hard a year ago, him and Duke (Johnson Jr.) both," Jackson said. "Our running game needs to come to the forefront."

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