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Browns See Two Backs As Way of Getting on Track

Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page H16

Five wins, one of the league's worst offenses and a mediocre defense are the short stories of last year's Cleveland Browns, who took a major step backward after reaching the playoffs in 2002.

The Browns appeared to regain ground by signing free agent Jeff Garcia, which ended the Tim Couch era, the former No. 1 draft pick who was often benched in favor of backup Kelly Holcomb.

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Garcia arrived and immediately became a plain-spoken leader. When Kellen Winslow Jr. skipped the first 12 days of camp while his agent was negotiating a deal, Garcia publicly called for him to get it done and get to camp.

Running back William Green hopes he can avoid his off-the-field troubles as easily as he did opposing tacklers when he rushed for 559 yards in the first seven games before being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

If not, Lee Suggs (Virginia Tech), a better inside runner, showed he is capable of carrying the ground game.

After missing most of last season recuperating from shoulder surgery, he rushed for a career-high 186 yards and ended the Bengals' chances of making the playoffs in the final game of the season.

"Being able to utilize two very good running backs, I think it's something we can build on," Garcia said. "It will help our offense create an identity."

Defensive end Courtney Brown, the top pick overall in the 2000 draft, and tackle Gerard Warren, the third pick overall in 2001, have not lived up to their lofty potential. End Kenard Lang and tackle Orpheus Roye anchored the line, but the defense was led by middle linebacker Andra Davis, a solid tackler who also recorded five sacks.

The secondary doesn't have any standout players, and will rely heavily on cornerback Daylon McCutcheon and safeties Earl Little (six interceptions) and Robert Griffith to keep the unit in the league's upper echelon.

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