The Cleveland Browns had a rotation at running back last season, mostly with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. This season, they don’t want any doubts about who is #1, with rookie Duke Johnson and new arrival Shaun Draughn trying to break through.
For now, it looks like it’s Crowell’s job to lose. West is out with a calf strain while Johnson, who had his injury issues in college with Miami, is out with hamstring problems. This means Draughn is getting a lot more touches than expected. Both him and Crowell haven’t been lighting it up, which has led to running back coach Wilbert Montgomery going on something of a mild mannered rant about his disappointment with the performances, or the lack of ambition being shown by the players.
The disappointing thing was that all those guys approaching here and not being in tip-top shape, I think that was a total setback, and now they are climbing back uphill and that’s why they’re taking a back seat right now. If you’re going to be a running back, your job is to get hit and your job is being able to bounce back from injuries really quickly because it’s most like playing a game every week. Each day you’ve got to be healthy and ready to go and you’ve got to play injured, you’ve got to play sore and you’ve got to play banged up. And if you can’t play with those things there, you really can’t play.
Nobody wants the role. You’d like to think that the guys that participated, who were here last year, you would like for them to have more of a lead role in that aspect of it. Is it going to happen? I don’t know, and that’s why I let them know every day, the competition is still the same. It hasn’t changed. All the backs are doing well. It’s just the fact is that you’re looking for that guy you can just strap the saddle on and they just say, ‘Hey, I want the job.’ Right now, it’s a close race.
How can you play and not want to be a starter? I mean to me, it just bothers me that guys don’t want to be the lead bell-cow guy. I mean, you want … this game gives you so much. I always talk to them about what this game gives you as a young person, but what it does for them in life and to their families. So if you want to be a backup, then be a backup. But I mean you’re gonna get replaced. At some point you’ve got to be a starter if you want to hang around.
Last season West and Crowell combined for 1280 yards on the ground, hovering around the 4 yards per carry. The Browns, with Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel at quarterback, are likely to focus on the running game once again, but believe that it takes a clearer hierarchy at the RB position to make the most of it.