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Published: Sunday, 8/22/2004

Browns locate offense, tailback

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Cleveland Browns running back Lee Suggs (44) runs away from Detroit's Teddy Lehman for a touchdown. Cleveland Browns running back Lee Suggs (44) runs away from Detroit's Teddy Lehman for a touchdown.
RON SCHWANE / AP Enlarge

CLEVELAND - Cleveland's much-maligned offense finally found the end zone.

The Browns also likely found their new starting tailback.

Lee Suggs has a leg up on William Green in the battle for the No. 1 spot in the backfield, and he isn't about to let up.

Suggs rushed for 63 yards on six carries last night and scored two touchdowns in a little over a quarter of action as the Browns beat the Detroit Lions 17-10 yesterday for their first preseason victory.

"Lee Suggs is exciting to watch, "Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia said. "I think he's showing he has what it takes to be an every-down back in the NFL."

Suggs averaged 10.5 yards per carry, including a 15-yard scamper in the second quarter for the game's go-ahead touchdown. Suggs also scored on an eight-yard run around right end in the first quarter - the Browns' first offensive touchdown of the season - to tie the game at 7.

"The offensive line made my job pretty easy tonight, " said Suggs, a fourth-round draft pick of the Browns last season. "On the two touchdowns, I wasn't even touched."

Suggs said he has no idea if he will start the regular season as Cleveland's No. 1 tailback, but he sure is making a good case for it.

"I'm trying to gain the trust of my teammates every practice, every game, " said Suggs, who was limited to just seven games and 289 yards rushing because of a shoulder injury a year ago. He gained 186 of those yards and scored both TDs season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Green, the No. 1 pick in 2002, missed the final eight games last year after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, and being involved in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend.

He had 24 yards on six carries last night and recovered his own fumble.

"Lee made the most of his opportunities tonight," Green said. "He did good. I definitely have

something to prove."

Suggs and Green were the lone bright spots in the Browns' 24-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans a week ago. Suggs had 24 yards on five carries; Green 23 on three.

"Lee is making some great runs for us," center Jeff Faine said.

"Not taking anything away from William Green, but Lee hit a couple of home runs to finish off two great drives."

Hard as it is to believe, Cleveland (1-1) hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner accomplished the feat in 1985.

"Last year we didn't stress running the ball," said the 6-foot, 210-pound Suggs, who finished his college career at Virginia Tech with 53 touchdowns and 2,767 yards rushing. "In the NFL, you have to be able to run the ball to win. It's a priority that we're stressing going into the season."

Suggs' backfield mate at Virginia Tech, Keith Jones, made his debut for the Lions after missing most of training camp with a tight hamstring. Jones, one of Detroit's two first-round picks, led the way with 29 yards on six carries - a 4.8 average.

"I was nervous, but I went out there, got loose and carried the ball," Jones said. "Physically, I felt good."

Detroit's other top pick, receiver Roy Williams, was held without a catch for the second consecutive game. Quarterback Joey Harrington threw several balls his way but they were either high, behind him or at his feet.

Harrington went 5-for-12 for 45 yards and a touchdown to Charles Rogers.

His backups weren't much better as Mike McMahon was 11-for-17 for 86 yards, and Rick Mirer was 0-for-3 for the Lions (1-1).

The Browns sustained several injuries. Defensive back Chris Crocker left with a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet collision with tight end Casey FitzSimmons in the third quarter. Defensive back Michael Lehan (foot) and offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez (ankle) also left in the second half.

Lions linebacker James Davis limped off with a right ankle injury in the second quarter. Detroit was without seven defensive backs, including all four starters: cornerbacks Dre' Bly (hip) and Fernando Bryant (hamstring), free safety Brock Marion (shoulder), and strong safety Brian Walker (knee).

"We were pleased to win the game," Browns coach Butch Davis said.

"Our guys were embarrassed by the way we played last week."

Contact Ron Musselman at:

mussel@theblade.com

or 419-724-6474.



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