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Keys to Victory

Keys to Victory: What we'll be watching against the Bills

In their preseason win over the Giants last week, the Browns defense was stout, and their air attack was potent. Only one thing was off: the run game. The Browns struggled to find any consistency in their running attack last week but hope that is behind them. 

The stats read 33 carries, 50 yards. But that doesn't tell the whole story. The first-team offense only played eight snaps, and workhorse running back Carlos Hyde only had one carry. Duke Johnson got the ball just once, too. Kevin Zeitler didn't play, Joel Bitonio is in a new position and Austin Corbett was in his first game as a rookie. Growing pains are bound to happen up front.

But the Browns want to run the ball, and they have to be better.

"They know they have to be better," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "Our backs have to be better. We can't have seven minus-runs for 17-20 yards or whatever it is. You are starting to give up points when you get into that area. We have to be better so obviously, that has been an emphasis this week."

Rookie back Nick Chubb had 15 carries in his debut but only gained 11 yards; his longest run was 4 yards. But Chubb's young, and he pressed a bit in his debut, running backs coach Freddie Kitchens said. That doesn't mean he needs to give Chubb a pep talk.

"I do not think that you ever have to give Nick a boost," Kitchens said. "What you have to do with Nick sometimes is maybe slow his eyes down. Like I said in the spring, 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 because you never know where the problem is coming from. You just have to read and react to what you see at that moment. I thought that he pressed a little bit the other night."

— With the aforementioned starters seeing minimal time last week, rookie second-string quarterback Baker Mayfield played two quarters in his debut. This week, Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton may see extended playing time. It could give the offensive line, Taylor and his cast of wide receivers an opportunity to develop a bond a week early in preparation for next week's dress rehearsal against the Eagles.

"I want to see them play longer than they played last week – a quarter or whatever that is, maybe a little longer," coach Hue Jackson said. "It all depends on how it is going. I definitely want them out there longer than eight plays. If the results are touchdowns, we will keep going. We just need to play a little bit more."

— Wide receiver Damion Ratley was quiet in the first week or so of camp but he's recently shown promise. The rookie wide receiver had one catch for 14 yards in the preseason opener but he's looking to leave a bigger imprint on the coaching staff in the second game.

"The young group is a group to be encouraged about," Haley said, speaking generally about the team's wide receivers. "There is not just one or two. There is a group of them. We are looking for a couple of guys that kind of separate themselves from the others."

Ratley is trying to be one of the young receivers who can do just that.

— With cut day just a little more than two weeks away, Jackson and the coaching staff continue to evaluate all 90 players, trying to decide who will make the 53-man roster. The evaluations involve all fringe players who could be on the cusp of making the team and players who will definitely make the team but could move on the depth chart.

"Let's see what the second week brings in terms of more execution and understanding situational football," Jackson said. "We need to be better at substitutions, getting guys in and out as far as from the sideline. It is Week 2 of the staff being together and understanding what we are trying to accomplish. Those things are important. Obviously, the most important is evaluating the team still."

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