This is a continuation of Part 1 of our training camp preview for the running back position.
There is a little bit of uncertainty as to how Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson will fit into the offense this season, but at least Trent Richardson is a definitive No. 1 back. Part of the reason there is some uncertainty with the other guys, particularly Hardesty, is the fact that Chris Ogbonnaya came on the scene last year and put on a couple of impressive showings. Let's take a look at the other two running backs who will be at training camp after Richardson, Hardesty, and Jackson.
4. CHRIS OGBONNAYA - BATTLING RUNNING BACK
Most of us should be aware of who Chris Ogbonnaya is, considering the fact he started four games last season for the Browns. Here is a little bit of background information on him prior to him joining the Browns: in 2009, he was a seventh-round draft pick by the St. Louis Rams. The Rams went 1-15 that season, and Pat Shurmur was the team's offensive coordinator. Ogbonnaya had 11 carries for 50 yards.
The following season, Ogbonnaya joined the Texans as a member of their practice squad. He began 2011 on Houston's practice squad too before being called up to their active roster for two games, where he had 3 carries for 6 yards. They waived him, presumably expecting to put him back on their practice squad, and that is when the Browns snatched him up.
I wasn't a big fan of Ogbonnaya's when he first arrived on the scene last year. I was already disappointed at what had been transpiring with Peyton Hillis, and then we were forced to almost immediately start Ogbonnaya against his former team, the Houston Texans, in Week 9. That's how quickly we were down to our fourth-string running back, and it was a "punch in the gut" feeling. Ogbonnaya did not have much room to run at first, but he got better in Week 10, carrying the ball 19 times for 90 yards. The week after that, he cracked the 100-yard mark and scored his first career touchdown. That was his peak; after that, Hillis and/or Hardesty returned to handle most of the carries. The team still liked what Ogbonnaya offered as a receiver -- he caught 23 passes on the season, mostly as a backup.
I never thought Ogbonnaya brought anything to the table that would make him an "X-Factor," but he doesn't need to. He seemed to run smart, finding the right holes when other backs had struggled. He lacked breakaway speed but could make a few nice moves. He doesn't rate as a premiere blocker, but he caught the ball pretty well. I found myself having more confidence in Ogbonnaya on gameday than I did Hardesty. The thing I'm not sure about is how much of an opportunity he'll receive this year in camp. He has played too much to be practice squad eligible. I imagine the team is going to keep a surplus of receivers, tight ends, and maybe even fullbacks, so I don't think they'll retain four running backs. I think it'll come down to a tough decision between Ogbonnaya and Hardesty, but then again, the two of them have contrasting styles. We'll do a poll to see what you think.
Player Quality: C+
Final Roster Odds: 60%
5. ADONIS THOMAS - UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT RUNNING BACK
In mid-May, the Browns waived Armond Smith, last year's speedster, to see what this rookie out of Toledo had to offer. Thomas had been invited to the Browns' rookie minicamp, and he impressed the team enough to warrant a contract offer. He ran for 2,551 yards and 21 touchdowns during his career at Toledo. Here is a scouting report on Thomas from SB Nation Cleveland:
What Thomas lacks in size (5’9" 185 pounds) he makes up for with freakish athletic ability. He runs a 4.45 second 40 yard dash, and has a 38-inch vertical leap to go along with throwing up 19 bench press reps of 225 pounds. For a man of that size, that’s impressive.
Small back with speed to burn who can make plays and hurt you in so many different ways. Averaging over six yards per carry both of the last two seasons, and has a career high 11 touchdown runs in 2011. Has received very limited carries in college, so his wear-and-tear should not be too bad heading into the pros, but his size does pose cause for some concern because he is not a thick back. He could probably add 10-15 pounds of muscle and maintain his speed. Good receiver out of the backfield with 59 catches over the last two seasons, along with three touchdowns. With the way defenses are being built to stop the pass first, he might be able to get away with playing at this size for a year, maybe two in the NFL. One of the best playmakers in the country when he has the ball in his hands.
He could add some size, and he could end up being a clone of Smith from a year ago. Maybe he'll bust out a long touchdown run with some breakaway speed in the preseason, but there are too many guys ahead of him on the depth chart right now. He's not going to beat out Richardson or Jackson, and he won't get as many reps as Hardesty or Ogbonnaya. That shouldn't be the expectation for him, though. Thomas is competing with nobody but himself. If he does a good job, he will earn a spot on the practice squad. If he doesn't, then he'll be waived and the team will probably cherry pick someone else who gets cut around the league.
Final Roster Odds: <5%
Practice Squad Odds: 50%
To finish the Offensive Attack series in our training camp preview series, we will preview the fullback position later tonight. Now, let's get to the poll: will Chris Ogbonnaya make the 53-man roster, and if so, choose the appropriate reason.