So far, Hue Jackson is a man of his word.
After taking the Browns job, Jackson pledged to feed Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson because he felt they could be the most dynamic running back duo in the league. Before the season Jackson told his team they would lead the league in rushing.
Four games in, mission accomplished.
The Browns are tops in the league averaging 149.3 yards per game on the ground led by Crowell, who is second in the NFL with 394 yards – behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott – and tops in the league with a 6.5 yards per carry average.
“I’m not surprised by anything he is doing,” Jackson said. “That is why I made the comments I made. He is a tremendous football player, and he is only going to get better. If he will continue to grind and work at it and stay to it, him and Duke and the rest of the group, they will. They will get better.”
Crowell credits Jackson’s belief in him, which he didn’t feel from the previous coaching staff, for his early success.
“It has helped me a lot,” Crowell said. “I feel like it give me a lot of confidence to know that my coach believes in me and that he trusts me. I just want to go out there and just play hard for my teammates and for him also.”
Crowell has his sights on a 1,000 yard season but is coming off of a 2015 campaign that saw him run for 706 yards and average 3.8 per carry. He admitted that he was frustrated throughout the year because of the game plans, schemes and coaching.
“Yeah it was very frustrating just know what I could do and the things I wanted to do to help my team that I wasn’t put in position to do so,” Crowell said. “But that’s the past and I appreciate my coach for giving me the opportunity to do so this year.”
Crowell has taken advantage of the opportunity Jackson has given him by making defenders bounce off of him with regularity through 4 games. Crowell has forced 12 missed tackles – 8 of them last week at Washington alone – according to Pro Football Focus.
“I feel like I’m in a good rhythm in the game,” Crowell said. “I feel like that’s where it comes from. I don’t feel like it’s anything different that I’m doing.”
With success comes expectation, and pressure to maintain the same level of production. New Englan head coach Bill Belichick has a long history of taking away what teams do best and there’s little doubt he’ll target Crowell and the Browns’ ground game.
“Crowell’s strong, tough, breaks tackles, makes a lot of yards on his own,” Belichick said this week. “Very explosive through the hole, breaks a lot of arm tackles. You’ve got to do a good job with him in the running game. He’s got great ball security. You’ve got to do a good job of defending the gaps and tackling.
“This will be a big challenge for us. We know that.”
Carl’s Comeback – Rookie defensive end Carl Nassib expects to return Sunday after missing the last 2 games due to a broken bone in his left hand. Nassib underwent surgery and will wear a ‘club’ to protect his hand during games.
“It’s a little challenging but I think I’ll handle it pretty well,” Nassib said.
Nassib, a third-round selection, racked up 3 tackles, a sack and a pass break-up in the season opener at Philadelphia before sustaining the injury in the third quarter against the Ravens.
Court Delayed – Offensive lineman Alvin Bailey, who was scheduled to appear in North Royalton Mayor’s Court Thursday morning, received a second continuance in his case stemming from a Sept. 26 arrest that saw him charged with 2 misdemeanor drug charges, OVI, speeding and failure to obey a lawful order. He’s scheduled to appear again on Nov. 3 at 9 a.m.
Bailey was benched last week against Washington for the arrest but Jackson said Wednesday the punishment was for 1 game and he will return to the starting lineup at right guard after center Austin Reiter tore his ACL which also forces John Greco to play center again Sunday.
“I’m very grateful. It means a lot for the organization to stick by me through this,” Bailey said. “Unfortunate situation, but I can’t run from it. I can make a million excuses to you, but that’s not going to change the fact that I did it. I’m going to keep working through it. I’m excited for the game this week. I think the whole team’s excited. I’m going to fight for a win.”
Quote Of The Day – “You gotta love the effing game, right? So everybody in here loves the game and our motivation is not lacking here at all. We’re very motivated. We’re going to improve every week and and I’m excited for this team,” – Defensive end Carl Nassib on dealing with the Browns’ 0-4 start.
Injury Report – DNP: LT Joe Thomas (non-injury related/rest), QB Josh McCown (shoulder), WR Corey Coleman (right hand), C Cam Erving (chest/lung), C Austin Reiter (knee), TE Seth DeVale (knee), TE Randall Telfer (ankle); LIMITED: S Ibraheim Campbell (hamstring), CB Joe Haden (groin/thigh), DE Carl Nassib (hand), CB Tramon Williams (shoulder); FULL: WR Andrew Hawkins (calf)
QB Robert Griffin III (shoulder) is on injured reserve but worked with trainers on the side.