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Training Camp

Mike Pettine on Browns run game: 'Know we have a sense of urgency'

One preseason game isn't enough for Mike Pettine to run away from the Browns running game.

The Cleveland head coach by no means brushed off the numbers during a Friday conference call with reporters. The Browns' four running backs accumulated just 27 yards on 16 attempts and had just one attempt go for 5 yards in Thursday's 20-17 loss to Washington.

It's far from what Pettine expects from this facet of the offense, particularly with an offensive line he believes can be one of the NFL's best. It's just not enough for him to go back to square one, especially when all of the variables of the past two weeks are considered.

"I have seen what we can be," Pettine said, "and know that when we have game-planned it and we have the guys out there that we are going to have out there and the backs get the proper reps leading up to the opener – I am confident.

"It is still not a situation where we are going to panic about it. Know that we have a sense of urgency."

Offensive guard Joel Bitonio cited the residual loss of repetitions with running backs Terrance West, Shaun Draughn and Duke Johnson Jr., all of whom have missed chunks of time because of injuries, as one of the possible reasons behind the struggles. Though the group isn't dealing with any significant injuries, Cleveland's offensive line wasn't at full strength Thursday, either, as eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas sat out because of a coach's decision, a move that put rookie Cameron Erving in his spot with the first-team offense and shook up the second group.

On the Browns' opening drive with the entire first-team offense, Isaiah Crowell ran three times for 5 yards and West ran once for 2. Jalen Parmele and Timothy Flanders, both of whom weren't on the team at the start of training camp, combined for 11 yards on eight attempts.

"It's just continuity," Bitonio said after Thursday's game. "We haven't had the same back back there. Our line wasn't full today. Just kind of working together. It's going to come together. It's preseason, first game. We've got three more games, a bunch more practices. We're going to be all right."

Reinforcements are expected in the coming weeks, but the Browns likely will have the same arsenal of running backs for their joint practices and subsequent preseason game with the Buffalo Bills.

Johnson Jr., who has been out since Aug. 2 with a hamstring injury, is not expected back for Saturday's practice but should return at some point next week, Pettine said. The Browns' Aug. 29 trip to Tampa Bay is circled as the likely preseason debut for Johnson, a third-round pick who is expected to bring speed and prowess in the passing game to Cleveland's backfield.

Draughn is expected back soon, too, Pettine said. Draughn, who was arguably the Browns' top performing running back through the first week of training camp, will go through practice with a cast on his injured hand and won't take contact while he wears it.

"I think we'll be fine in that sense," Pettine said. "It is just tough not having those guys out there. Duke losing those reps. Shaun losing those reps. Terrance lost some and obviously he is back now.

"At this point I can't say it would change our game planning."

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