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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2014: RB Preview, Part II (Who Survives the Cut?)

Can Dion Lewis show the same spark he did in training camp 2013 before breaking his leg?
Can Dion Lewis show the same spark he did in training camp 2013 before breaking his leg?
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

In Part 1 of our training camp preview on Cleveland Browns running backs, we were pretty certain that Ben Tate and Terrance West would begin the season atop the depth chart. Everything after that is up for grabs, though. Whether the Browns keep three or four running backs, I could easily see any combination of the four running backs in today's preview making the roster. Let's run through the candidates.


8276_mediumChris Ogbonnaya (#25)

6-0 | Weight: 225
Age: 28 | Experience: 5 years
College: Texas

Note: Entering his 4th season with the Browns...still could be considered the starting FB.

Until we start seeing where the Browns are utilizing Chris Ogbonnaya in training camp, it's tough to say whether we should classify him as a running back or a fullback. A running back by trade, Rob Chudzinski utilized him as the starting fullback in 2013. The new coaching staff has no obligation to keep him at that position, though, and there are a few potential fullbacks on the 90-man roster.

What this boils down to is, "do the Browns want a decent all-around running back on their roster, versus somebody who might be more flashy?" Ogbonnaya burst for a gain of 43 yards last season and averaged 4.9 YPC, he can catch the ball quite well, and he's become a good blocker, especially with all of the experience he got at fullback last year. Ogbonnaya's versatility makes him the slight favorite to stick around.

Final Roster Odds: 50%


8276_mediumDion Lewis (#28)

5-8 | Weight: 195
Age: 23 | Experience: 4 years
College: Pittsburgh

Note: Spark plug of Browns training camp in 2013...broken leg derailed his momentum.

Last year, Dion Lewis was the MVP of training camp. After every practice, his teammates, coaches, and fans were bragging about his speed, agility, and ability to catch passes. He was the favorite to be the team's kickoff returner too. In the first two preseason games, Lewis was averaging 4.6 YPC and had caught 7 passes for 37 yards and 1 touchdown. Then, the bad news struck: Lewis broke his leg in the third preseason game.

Having been placed on injured reserve, I'd like to think that Lewis has had plenty of time to recover and get back to the point he was at. With a new coaching staff, Lewis will need to make that impression all over again. "Will he be given the opportunity to do so?" is the question.

If Kyle Shanahan prefers giving reps to Tate, West, and Crowell in training camp, then maybe Lewis doesn't even receive many reps to showcase his talent and ends up being the odd man out. Like so many of the team's offensive positions, the early depth chart in camp will tell us a lot more about these players' roster odds. For now, I'm projecting Lewis to make the roster and reclaim some of the magic he had a year ago -- minus the broken leg this time around.

Final Roster Odds: 50%


8276_mediumEdwin Baker (#27)

5-8 | Weight: 210
Age: 23 | Experience: 1 year
College: Michigan State

Note: Signed at the end of the 2013 season...started 2 games and scored 2 TDs.

At the end of last season, Edwin Baker was signed to the Browns' roster off the practice squad of the Houston Texans, but he had originally been a seventh-round draft pick in 2012 by the San Diego Chargers. He had to of spent a little bit of time with Ben Tate during his time with the Texans.

While Baker was on the Texans' practice squad, little did he know that he would suddenly be starting the final two games of the season for the Browns (and carrying the load on top of that). In three games, Baker averaged 4.0 YPC with 2 rushing touchdowns and caught the ball pretty well.

Baker was impressive during his short regular season stay, but where do you put him on the depth chart? "Intriguing" to Browns fans like us is when a player has a good camp or a couple of good regular season games, but Kyle Shanahan won't care about that. He'll want to see from a clean slate whether a guy like Baker can excel in the zone blocking scheme. Again, it's so tough to project which of these running backs will make the team.

Final Roster Odds: 25%
Practice Squad Odds: 50% (if he doesn't make the team)


8276_mediumIsaiah Crowell (#30)

5-11 | Weight: 225
Age: 21 | Experience: Rookie
College: Alabama State

Note: Has had a troubled past...signed as an UDFA, but could be a steal.

Not many people expected Isaiah Crowell to go undrafted. In fact, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports rated him as a fourth-round prospect, saying the following:

"Crowell is arguably the most gifted RB in this draft class with the NFL talent to be an impact starter and be as good as he wants, but needs to develop a professional demeanor, keep his nose clean and come to work every day with the same drive – draft projection and NFL future depends on the baggage and maturity, but the talent is there for him to quickly become an impact NFL player."

Crowell was a hot commodity among the undrafted free agents, but he chose to sign with the Browns because of the team's obviously unproven depth chart. He's not going to usurp Tate's starting role any time soon, but if West struggles or suffers an injury, there's a legitimate chance that we could see Crowell shoot right up the depth chart. I don't think the Browns will treat Crowell as a "bottom of the depth chart guy" -- they'll see whether he can contribute this year, and then decide whether he's a good fit or not. He either makes the team or he doesn't, because the odds of him going to the practice squad -- versus being claimed off waivers -- don't seem very good.

Final Roster Odds: 25%
Practice Squad Odds: 50% (if he doesn't make the team)

Vote in the poll below for which running back you would keep on the 53-man roster if you could only keep one of them. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the fullback position, which will also have Ogbonnaya in the mix.