The efficient quarterback play was the big story out of Friday's Orange and Brown scrimmage.
Mike Pettine wouldn't mind if the attention shifted toward the other way Cleveland plans to move the ball this season after Thursday's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.
After an offseason in which the Browns devoted even more resources toward building a strong running game, the offense passed and passed and passed when it squared off against the defense in front of nearly 50,000 fans at Ohio Stadium. Outside of a couple of good runs from Shaun Draughn and Timothy Flanders, the ground game was noticeably quiet while Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel and the Browns' deep group of receivers led the way on the offense's five scoring drives.
Was it a sign of things to come? Not quite.
Running backs Duke Johnson Jr. and Terrance West were sidelined for the scrimmage. So, too, was fullback Malcolm Johnson, who, despite his rookie status, has emerged as an important cog in the Browns offense.
"We wanted to emphasize the pass a little bit more because of our injury situation heading into it," Pettine said Tuesday on the Mike Pettine radio show. "We were down two backs and had some new guys and wanted to see how the quarterbacks were and test that wideout group.
"Our offense will be predicated on our ability to run the football and protect the quarterback, so it does start up front. Hopefully we'll see some good examples of that on Thursday night."
Pettine's radio show can be heard every Tuesday throughout the preseason at 7 p.m. on 92.3 The Fan. It will shift to Thursdays at 7 p.m. during the regular season.
West, who led the team in rushing yards last season, is expected to be back in the lineup after going through the past three practices. Malcolm Johnson, who injured his shoulder last week, went through practice Tuesday in a non-contact jersey.
Duke Johnson Jr. and Draughn, who injured his hand during the scrimmage, won't be available, putting the spotlight brightly on West and Isaiah Crowell, the only one in the group to remain healthy since the start of camp.
"It's something that's part of football," Pettine said. "As we stress to our guys all the time, mental toughness, dealing with adversity. A guy goes down in your position group, you've got to take more reps, that's adversity you have to deal with. How are you going to handle it?"
On Sunday, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery challenged one of his players to emerge as a bell-cow, 20-carries-per-game type of running back. Pettine, who idolized Montgomery as a child, chuckled as he described Montgomery as a "straight shooter" and agreed with message.
The live repetitions they receive during the preseason will play a big factor in determining who that running back is, Pettine said.
"The message has been consistent and we're looking for one of those guys to step up," Pettine said. "That's one of the strengths of our team. you want everyone to think and act and prepare like you're the No. 1 guy. I think you can be special when you take that mentality. Don't put yourself in a role. Go ahead and assume all of it."