BEREA--Willis McGahee spent four seasons with the Ravens from 2007-10 and he would like nothing better than to have his coming out party be against his former team.
However, he and the Browns offense have their work cut out for them. The Ravens are still ranked 13th in the NFL in stopping the run and the Browns as a team have only gone over 100 yards rushing twice. There best rushing performance was 126 yards in a loss to the Lions. The Browns are 26th in the NFL averaging just 82.6 yards a game rushing the ball.
As a team, the Browns are just rushing the ball 21 times a game. McGahee is averaging just 13 carries a game and he was asked what he and the Browns have to do to be more productive at running the ball.
"Not be behind in the first half," he said. "That's what it takes. Not going three and out in the first three or four series, complete some third downs and get six or seven yards on first down and keeping it close on third down. That's what it takes.
"When you have a slow start and when we get behind you know it's going to be a passing game," he said. "When we execute and do the little things right, you get more than 13 carries. When you're down 12 or 13 points there's only so much running you can do."
McGahee's most productive game since joining the Browns was against the Bills when he rushed for 72 yards on 26 carries, including a one-yard touchdown run.
McGahee was signed immediately after the trade of Trent Richardson to steady the ship and try to give the Browns some sense of running game. He has played six games and rushed for 231 yards on 79 rushes for just a 2.9 average per carry. HIs longest run of the season has been 16 yards.
The Browns are averaging under four yards a carry at 3.9 on the season. The longest run from scrimmage by a running back is 22 yards from Chris Ogbonnaya. They had a 45-yard run by Travis Benjamin, a 34-yard run by Josh Aubrey on a fake punt and a 22-yard run by Josh Gordon.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said there's an easy explanation for the average.
"If you want to have a high average per attempt, you have to break long runs," Turner said. "We're getting into our ninth game and we haven't had any long runs, so to just think all of a sudden those are going to just show up."
Turner knows the Browns will most likely continue to run by committee with McGahee, Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker. He said the offense started to be effective in the second half last week against the Chiefs after being held for minus one yard in the first half. In the second half, the Browns picked up 58 yards on 12 attempts for an average of 4.8 per carry.
"We have to manage the running game," Turner said. "I thought we got some good runs in the second half, some good bursts in there with runs of 10 or 11 yards. There was some times, looking back we took some shots when we should've run the ball. We had the run that took us down in there pretty good but we had the holding call. I thought we were getting a little rhythm going in the run because inside we were doing a good job on their nose (tackle) and ends."
Rob Chudzinski said the reason the Browns were able to run the ball more effectively in the second half against the Chiefs was execution.
"I don’t know that it was a lot of adjustments more than better execution and converting on some third downs and being able to get in a rhythm and get some drives going," Chudzinski said. "We had three straight three-and-outs, and then we had a drive where we had two plays and a touchdown and then a two-minute drive.
"Really, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to have any runs in that," he said. "We just have to do a better job of executing early and get the ball moving, get some third downs converted. I think you saw that in the second half. When we have that, then we can get a good mix, a good balance going, and get into a rhythm.”
Turner knows for the Browns to be an effective offense over the second half of the season, they are going need to have a more effective running game.
"We have to find a way to get everyone involved in the offense because right now, we have just two guys making plays in Jordan (Cameron) and Josh (Gordon) and sooner than later that catches up to you."
McGahee thinks if the offense can cut down on mistakes they will be able to become more productive.
"We're young, but if we execute plays, we can move the ball if we do everything right, no false starts, dropped balls."
He also knows there's still plenty of season left to turn things around.
"I've been around a long time and it's not how you start, but how you finish."
Turning Point: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton he says he hopes the second half against the Chiefs proves to be the turning point for the Browns defense. He says he thinks the players just decided to play better.
"I think they chose to (play better)," Horton said. "Hopefully, that is the turning point.
"I think the guys dug deep," Horton said. "The biggest adjustment was a mental standpoint. I think they were embarrassed (by the first half).".
All hands on deck: All players no the 53-man roster practiced on Thursday, with the exception of McGahee, who was getting his weekly one day of rest for his knee. DL Billy Winn (quad) and LB Quentin Groves (ankle) were listed as limited on the injury report, but practiced. McGahee is expected to play. If Winn and Groves play against the Ravens, it will be the first time all season the Browns have had all of their projected front seven players active for a game.
Aggressive Chud: Last week against the Chiefs, Chudzinski elected to go for a first down on fourth-and-one on the first series of the second half and were successful as McGahee picked up two yards. On the next play, QB Jason Campbell hit RB Fozzy Whittaker for a 17 yard touchdown to make the score 20-17.
“We were down 10 at that point," Chudzinski explained. "We were in good position to get points. A fourth-and-1, I felt good about what we had as a fourth-and-1 call. Getting a touchdown there as opposed to a field goal coming out in the third quarter, I felt good about it. I had faith in our guys about executing that play and being able to get a touchdown out of it at that point. Obviously, any time you can get a touchdown over a field goal, I understand it was a two-possession game and a field goal is just fine, but we’re going to be aggressive. We talk about attacking; we talk about aggressive. The guys relish that and I think they play to that and that’s part of our identity.”
McGahee said he appreciates playing for a coach like Chudzinski.
"No doubt," he said. "He has faith in his O-line and his running backs. Going for it on fourth and one shows a lot."
Fresh Start: The Browns have lost 11 straight games to the Ravens dating back to 2007, but McGahee, who was on the Ravens then said the streak doesn't mean a lot to him.
"I wasn't here for those 11 games, but I look at is as in the past it's a different story now."