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Green/Suggs = Mack/Byner??

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Green/Suggs = Mack/Byner??

Postby slowkidz » Thu Oct 28, 2004 10:46 pm

Green, Suggs turn back the clock
By Steve King, Associate Editor
October 27, 2004


William Green and Lee Suggs.

Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner.

With the way Green and Suggs performed against
the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, especially
in the first half, it's impossible not to think
back to the last half of the 1980s when Mack and
Byner were in the backfield for the Browns. The
Browns haven't had a tandem of backs like that
since then, their best duo being Green (887) and
Jamel White (470), who combined for 1,357 in
2002.

At halftime of the 34-31 overtime loss Sunday,
Suggs had nine carries for 69 yards, averaging
7.7 yards a try. Green was averaging 8.3 yards on
50 yards in nine rushes.

"That was a great feeling," Suggs said this week.
"It got us going. It got the offense rolling."

With the Browns running the ball at will against
a defense that entered the game ranked ninth
against the rush, the Eagles were desperate to
make some halftime adjustments.

"They turned to a full-man blitz," Browns coach
Butch Davis said. "They started using eight- and
nine-man fronts."

That shut off the running game.

"They were shooting the gaps, and it was
disrupting things," fullback Terrelle Smith said.


But with everybody crowded near the line of
scrimmage, it opened up the passing game.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia was 12-of-18 for 125
yards and a touchdown in the second half as the
Philadelphia secondary become more vulnerable.

In a lot of ways, that is what happened with the
Browns in 1985. With Mack (1,104) and Byner
(1,002) accomplishing the unique feat of both
going over the 1,000-yard mark, a first-year
quarterback named Bernie Kosar started finding a
little more room to throw.

Garcia, 34, is obviously not a rookie like was
Kosar that year, but he has been facing some of
the same problems; Garcia is in his first season
with the Browns after signing as a free agent in
the offseason. Like Kosar, Garcia is trying to
learn the system and the players.

It's working. Garcia has had two good games in a
row. After throwing for 310 yards and four TDs
and two interceptions on 16-of-23 passing, he
finished Sunday at 21-of-31 for 236 yards, a TD
and a pick.

"In many ways, this was my most complete game,"
Garcia said of his effort against the Eagles. "I
told (quarterbacks) coach (Steve) Hagen, 'I'm
getting it. I'm starting to get it.' This was a
sign of things becoming more natural for me."

That's all being borne out of the running game.
It's no secret the Browns want to be a team that
runs first to set up the pass. When they're able
to do that, as they did Sunday and also the
previous week when they defeated Cincinnati 34-17
with the help of Green's 115 rushing yards and
Suggs' 100 receiving yards, it makes everything
so much easier.

"You've got to walk before you can run, and for
the Browns back in 1985 and also now, you've got
to be able to run before you can pass," said Doug
Dieken, who was in the first of his 17 years then
as the color analyst on the Browns radio network.


In 1985, Mack was an NFL rookie who signed with
the Browns when the USFL folded. Byner was a
second-year pro after having been an obscure
10th-round draft pick from East Carolina the year
before.

They clicked right from the start and helped lead
the Browns to the AFC Central title and the first
of five straight playoff appearances for the
team.

Nineteen years later, it's Suggs and Green. Like
Mack was with Byner, Green is a little older and
more experienced than his running mate. This is
his third season after being the Browns' top
draft pick in 2002.

He lost the final half of last season after
encountering a series of personal problems. He is
just now starting to look like the back he was
before that, when he had one big performance
after another in the final nine games as a rookie
to help lead the Browns to the AFC playoffs.

Suggs has also missed time - in fact, almost all
of his rookie season in 2003 after having
shoulder surgery. The fourth-round draft pick
then sat out the first three games this year
because of a neck injury.

That's why he has just 209 yards (3.4 average) as
the 3-4 Browns head into their bye week. Green
has 431 yards and a 4.2 average.

Green has a definite shot at 1,000 yards. With
nine games remaining, he has to average just a
little over 62 yards per contest the rest of the
season to get there.

For Suggs, it will be extremely difficult if not
next-to-impossible fore him to reach 1,000. He
needs a couple games like the breakout one he had
in last year's finale, when he ran for 186 yards
against Cincinnati to put a small silver lining
into a disappointing 5-11 finish for the team.

Byner's breakout game also came in the last game
of a 5-11 season in 1984 when, as a rookie as
well, he had 188 yards against the Houston
Oilers.

And oh, yes, Byner wore No. 44, just as does
Suggs now.

So now for the $64,000 question: Can Suggs and
Green ever evolve into another Mack and Byner?

"I think they can if they, the line and the rest
of the offense continues to progress at the same
rate as they are now," Dieken said.

"In Lee and William, you've got two guys who are
able to take it to the house on any play. Kevin
had that same ability, but Earnest was more of a
guy who would just get in there and slug it out."


Fullback Terrelle Smith, signed in the offseason
to be the long-needed lead blocker for the
running game, calls Suggs and Green "a two-headed
monster. When I watch them, no matter which one
has the ball, I see the same player going into
the hole. But once they get through the hole,
that's where Lee and William start doing the
things that distinguish themselves from each
other."

Suggs ended the Eagles contest with a game-high
78 yards in 16 carries. Green was right behind
him with 64 yards in 14 tries.

The difference that day may have been how the
Browns used the two backs. In the first six games
this year, they rotated them on nearly every
series. Against Philadelphia, they moved them in
and out on the same series, minimizing their time
on the bench.

"By not being out so long, we were able to get in
sync better," Green said.

"It made a big difference," Suggs said.

But it's not a perfect situation. Perfect would
be getting the chance to be the feature back and
stay in there for all the plays on every series.
Neither one is happy about the fact that Davis is
committed to using both of them equally to have a
fresh back in the game at all times.

"It is what it is," Green said. "You just go out
there and do what you're asked to do, when you're
asked to do it. You just have to take advantage
of your opportunities."

It was different with Byner and Mack in 1985.
Most teams, including the Browns, used two
runners in the game at the same time then. Now
the Browns utilize either Green or Suggs lined up
behind Smith. It's a formula Davis and offensive
coordinator Terry Robiskie believe will lead to
even more success.

"I think Lee and William will definitely get
better," Davis said. "Both guys are young and
have a lot of upside as both runners and
receivers."

Suggs already has 11 catches this season for 131
yards, including a 59-yarder for a TD, while
Green has eight receptions for 35. In 1985, Byner
was second on the team in catches with 45. Mack
was fourth with 29.

Both Green and Suggs are healthy, as is the
offensive line, which, according to Davis, turned
in its best game of the year against the Eagles.
The Browns, as mentioned, got their ground game
untracked with Green in the final nine games of
2002 to make the playoffs after being just 3-4 at
one point.

With nine games left this year, they hope that
the performances of the last two contests
indicate the same thing might be ready to happen
again.
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