Our next set of training camp previews for the Cleveland Browns will focus on the running back position. Today, we will take a look at the three backs who are most likely to compete for the starting role or significant reps in 2015.
1. TERRANCE WEST - COMPETING TO BE STARTING RUNNING BACK
Terrance West finished last season with 171 carries for 673 yards (3.9 YPC) and 4 touchdowns to go along with 11 catches for 64 yards and 1 touchdown. On paper, it wasn't a bad rookie effort for West, who was a third-round pick after the club had signed veteran Ben Tate in the offseason. He started off the year with a 16-carry, 100-yard performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Unfortunately, the rest of the season was marred by him being disciplined by the coaching staff for not having the right attitude or mentality in practice and fumbling in key spots of a game. He also did not get along with Tate (although the odd part is that West now reportedly rents in the home that Tate still owns in Cleveland).
During OTAs this year, West told the media that he was in the doghouse at times last year, but that he deserved being there and the rookie experience was a learning process for him. He certainly doesn't lack confidence from how he exudes himself on the field, but the coaching staff is still going to remember whatever character flaws he had last year. West might be the team's best fit to be a starting running back, but he needs to stay committed to correcting whatever character flaws upset the coaching staff in 2014.
Final Roster Odds: 99%
2. ISAIAH CROWELL - COMPETING TO BE STARTING RUNNING BACK
Isaiah Crowell finished last season with 148 carries for 607 yards (4.1 YPC) and 8 touchdowns, to go along with 9 catches for 87 yards. An undrafted free agent in 2014, Crowell was not really utilized by the Browns until the team's final preseason game, when he ripped off a 13-carry, 102-yard performance.
Crowell made the final roster and quickly became one of the most exciting players on offense. His one-cut attack worked very well when the Browns got into the red zone as he would dart into the end zone. Although he had a couple of good games after Alex Mack's injury, Crowell seemed to be the running back who was most affected by the depleted center position. Over his final five games, Crowell had 58 carries for 161 yards, a 2.77 YPC average.
Although Crowell and West both shared first-team reps back in OTAs, Kevin Jones of Browns.com said that Crowell had "received the lion’s share of first-team repetitions to begin OTAs." I think Crowell works better as a rotational back who catches the defense off guard after they are already on their heels. Things I would like to see Crowell improve on in year two: holding onto the football more, and not tripping so often on his own feet when he tries to cut through a hole.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. DUKE JOHNSON - COMPETING TO BE STARTING RUNNING BACK
I was very surprised when the Browns took a running back as high as they did in this year's draft, given the potential that West and Crowell showed as rookies. By the time this competition is all said and done, though, Duke Johnson could end up being the team's starting running back.
Johnson has received nothing but glowing reviews from the media and the coaching staff since his arrival. Adam Caplan of ESPN went as far as saying that Johnson "has been the most impressive of Cleveland's running backs" and that his versatility and explosiveness showed." As far as a prediction, he thinks Johnson is going to take the competition by storm:
My money would be on Duke Johnson to be a 3-down RB for the Browns, but he needs to show he can take next step with pads on.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) June 12, 2015
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN is hearing good things too. Whether Johnson starts or not, one thing that seems clear to be is that he will be one of the team's top two featured running backs.
Keep hearing good things about Duke Johnson. One CLE starter said though it’s early, Johnson’s poise was obvious in offseason work #Browns— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 25, 2015
Final Roster Odds: 100%
Tomorrow, we will cover the other three running backs on the Browns' roster. Feel free to discuss your thoughts on the running backs below. Our poll asks who you would pick as the team's opening day featured back.