This week’s theme post across the SB Nation NFL blogs asks the question, “Who is the one player you can't afford to lose?” Unfortunately, that question is more appropriate for a winning team that has something at stake. The 53 players on the Browns’ roster haven’t been able to pull together a win in 2017 (and only one win in 2016). Despite that, we’ll try to decide which player gives us the best chance to win a game to close out 2017 who we can’t afford to lose.
Josh Gordon is the most obvious answer, by far. However, that feels like too easy of a choice, and we’ve already discussed him to death over the past few weeks. To avoid over-saturation, I’ll pick someone else.
I sat here awhile and thought about a lot of players on the team (which is not a good thing, because it means no one individual stood out as a game-changer). Myles Garrett has been fine, but hasn’t shown the ability to terrorize the opposition. Jason McCourty would’ve been a good one, but now he’s had three straight underachieving outings. DeShone Kizer isn’t essential to the team winning, because I still believe Kevin Hogan (at this point in time) wouldn’t hurt the team’s odds of winning. Collectively, there are some players who have played the run well on defense, but again, no one individual is the lynch-pin.
I have to set my sights on offense and go with Isaiah Crowell. Over his past six games, he’s averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Last week was his first 100+ yard rushing effort of the season, and he’s not wearing down. He’s still hungry to prove himself in a contract year, and I’m sure he even believes if given the opportunity, he could be a 1,000-yard back to close out the season.
The Browns' next three opponents -- Baltimore, Chicago, and Pittsburgh -- rank 13th, 14th, and 9th against the run, respectively. But the weather is getting colder and all three of them are around the top ten in pass defense, so Cleveland can’t afford to be one-dimensional. Fans often call for Duke Johnson to get the ball more, and that’s fair, but Crowell is more built to absorb the punishment that comes with the heavier load. Without him, you’re looking at Johnson and Matthew Dayes, a combination that would heavily decrease the Browns’ odds of having a fighting chance in my estimation.
What do you think, Browns fans? Who is one player the Browns can’t afford to lose in these final three games if they want a shot at winning a game? I think you should also keep Gordon out of the list of names, so the discussion can be more original.