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Browns' Training Camp Preview: Backfield

A year after the Browns saw their first 1,000 yard rusher in years, fans were disappointed that Reuben Droughns and the offensive line could not even come close to duplicating that type of effort last season. It was clear that Droughns had lost his burst, and without quick linemen to block for him, he was almost useless. In the offseason, Droughns was traded away and the Browns decided to sign the man who broke the single-game rushing record against us a few years ago - Jamal Lewis. We know where Lewis will stand heading into the season, but what about the backup role?

STARTING RUNNING BACK - JAMAL LEWIS

Jamal Lewis
Height: 5-11
Weight: 245
Exp: 8 years
Lewis entered the league in the year 2000 with the Baltimore Ravens, and immediately made his mark on the league. During his first two seasons, Lewis averaged 4.4 and 4.3 yards-per-carry (YPC), recording six touchdowns each season. Then, his breakout year came in 2003, as he went on to rush for 2,066 yards and 14 touchdowns. Following that season, the injuries began to get to Lewis, and it showed on the field. In 2005, Lewis only averaged 3.4 YPC, and last year he averaged 3.6 YPC. With that said, there's still tank left in Lewis' tank. Despite how battered he's been, Lewis ran for over 1,110 yards last year behind a mediocre Ravens' line. Romeo Crennel hopes that Lewis can bring a consistent running attack to the Browns with the ability to drive the pile forward regularly. With some upgrades at offensive line, that certainly looks possible.

BACKUP RUNNING BACKS - JEROME HARRISON, JASON WRIGHT

Jerome Harrison
Height: 5-9
Weight: 210
Exp: 2 years
Jason Wright
Height: 5-10
Weight: 214
Exp: 3 years
One of the biggest disappointments last season, even more so than Travis Wilson getting shafted out of playing time, was how sparingly the team would utilize Harrison. Between all of the players in the preseason, Harrison made the biggest impact. In fact, there were many fans that believed Harrison could be a spoiler for offensive rookie of the year if anything were to happen to Droughns. Well, something did happen to Droughns - he played poorly with the rest of the team, and then sustained an injury later in the season. Instead of Harrison receiving significant playing time, he only saw 20 carries for 60 yards in limited duty. Some of Harrison's issues last year included his inability to block, something that he's tried to improve upon with at least 10 extra pounds added on. The coaches have publicly stated their intentions in using Harrison's skills this season as a third down back, which is music to my ears.

Wright is the type of player that I believe Crennel will want to keep on the roster, regardless of what happens. Based on the performances and interviews I've seen from him, he seems like a classy guy that will accept whatever role he is given. Wright didn't explode last year in backup duty, but he was serviceable for an emergency situation.

ON THE BUBBLE - CHRIS BARCLAY

Chris Barclay
Height: 5-10
Weight: 180
Exp: 1 year
Jerome Jackson
Height: 5-11
Weight: 208
Exp: Rookie
Barclay has a remote chance of making the final roster, but unfortunately the team will want to have another veteran back on the roster in case Lewis goes down. Barclay can be a little waterbug on the field, something that'll likely keep him on the practice squad again.

RELEASED - JEROME JACKSON
An undrafted free agent from Michigan, Jackson was the only impressive rookie running back from minicamp that the team felt was worthy of bringing to training camp. His chances are limited, and without seeing what he has to offer, it'd seem unlikely that he'd crack the roster.


STARTING FULLBACK - LAWRENCE VICKERS
Lawrence Vickers
Height: 6-0
Weight: 252
Exp: 1 year
After the Browns released veteran Terrelle Smith in the offseason, Vickers jumped up to the No. 1 spot at the fullback position. Although he hasn't won the job by any means, it would seem doubtful that Vickers would not see significant playing time, especially with how often Crennel would praise his ability. Every press conference, Crennel mentioned Vickers name as an integral part of the team's future. Vickers was known for some forgetful plays last year, including an option pass attempt as well as two halfback tosses on 3rd-and-1 early in the season, but his speed can be an asset as a check down option. The major question regarding Vickers is whether or not he'll be suitable as a lead blocker for Jamal Lewis.

BACKUP FULLBACK - CHARLES ALI

Charles Ali
Height: 6-2
Weight: 265
Exp: Rookie
Without seeing what Ali can do on the field with my own eyes, it's difficult to claim that he'll make the final roster. The team is only carrying three fullbacks on the roster heading into camp though, and Ali has supposedly drawn praise for his blocking ability to go along with his massive frame. He wasn't known as a receiver during his college days at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but reports have indicating that his hands have been a pleasant surprise thus far.

RELEASED - J.R. NIKLOS

J.R. Niklos
Height: 6-2
Weight: 229
Exp: 1 year
After spending some time in NFL Europe, Niklos was excited about his opportunity to play with the Browns at 28 years of age. Due to the fact that he's been a student of the game for a longer period of time, Niklos may win the edge over Ali. The Browns are his fifth team though, and chances are that if he was good enough to play every day in the NFL, he would've caught on elsewhere by now.

Up next, I'll switch gears somewhat and analyze the team's offensive line, the unit that will be key to protecting and blocking for the positions I've already reviewed.

RANDOM FACT: Did you realize that the letter "J" appears to be popular among our running backs? Jamal Lewis, Jerome Harrison, Jason Wright, Jerome Jackson. Chris Barclay is the odd man out.