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Dion Lewis: Man on a mission

Posted Jul 30, 2014

Cleveland Browns running back fighting tooth and nail for his turn

Have you ever seen someone rip a tablecloth off its surface without knocking over a glass or a plate?

That’s the way Dion Lewis runs the football. It’s magician-like. How’d he get out of that jam?

Lewis is shifty. He’s slippery. He can break ankles. Most importantly, his style of running makes him unique in the crowded Cleveland Browns running back position.  

“I’m more of a quick guy,” said Lewis. “I make you miss and that’s what I think separates myself.”

The Browns are in desperate need of a quick guy. In 2013, the franchise ranked 27th in the NFL in rushing. Home-run-hitting kind of plays were none existent. Even a stout offensive line with two Pro Bowlers couldn’t jump start the lagging rushing attack.

Things might’ve been different for the Browns had Lewis not fractured his fibula in a preseason contest against Detroit, ending what might’ve been a promising season. Lewis was wowing coaches last summer in training camp. Seeing the Browns struggles now in hindsight, it’s easy to say Lewis probably would’ve been the starter at some point last season. There was no sulking for Lewis, though.

“My confidence never went down,” said the 23-year-old Lewis. “I just rehabbed hard this offseason to learn this playbook, and I’m comfortable now. You just have to do whatever the coach asks of you, taking coaching kindly and just keep pushing.”

Trent Richardson, Fozzy Whitaker and Willis McGahee, who led the Browns with a measly 381 yards, all have exited Berea.

In their place enters what should be upgrades. Ben Tate is a vocal leader, who told us he “wants to change the culture in Cleveland.” Rookie Terrance West has shown flashes of athleticism during training camp, especially as a receiver out of the backfield.

That’s only two running backs, though. The Browns will certainly keep three, and possibly four. Because of his unique style, Lewis has faith in himself. The optimism is blossoming where it matters, too.

Well-traveled running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery has tutored some of the best in the league, in stints with the Rams and the Ravens. He’s never seen the depth that the Browns possess in his entire career.

“This is the first time that I’ve had talent this good as a running back coach,” said Montgomery. “In Baltimore I had multiple Pro-Bowl backs. The same in St. Louis, with Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk the same way.

But here is a little bit different, everyone here is fighting to be a Pro-Bowl back and fighting to be a starter so it has breathed great competition. If you look around I can call on anyone of those guys, they are going to do something special out there on the field.”

We’ve wrote about it before: Kyle Shanahan has rotated the football with whoever the hot hand was many times in his career. Alfred Morris was the “cream who rose to the top,” in Washington, over predicted ball carriers Roy Helu and Tim Hightower.

Can Lewis pull the tablecloth from out underneath the Browns’ other running backs, and earn carries? It’s entirely possible.