Cleveland’s running backs took on a different look than was envisioned at the start of training camp after the trade of Terrance West.
It was an up and down season from that point forward, but the year ended with some optimism surrounding both of the Browns’ ball-carriers.
Here’s our breakdown.
The Raw Data
Robert Turbin - 3 games, 18 carries, 60 yards (3.3 ypc); 2 rec., 8 yards
Shaun Draughn - 5 games, 2 carries, 10 yards (5 ypc); 2 rec., 1 yard
Others on the roster
Rushing offense - 95.6 yards per game - 22nd
Yards per carry - 4 yards per carry - 16th
Fumbles lost - 4 - T-8th most
Rushing TDs - 5 - T-29th
(According to Spotrac.com, the following players contracts will expire at the start of the new league year in March)
Who’s in charge now?
Running backs/run game coordinator - Kirby Wilson (32 years experience, 19 in NFL)
Quote to note
“(Johnson) can catch with it, he can run with it, he's a three-down back. He'll protect. He has exactly what you're looking for … When I watch Crow, I just go watch the San Francisco game. I mean, ‘are you kidding me?’ The guy played big time. What I want him to understand he's got to do that all the time. We're not looking for it some of the time. The big time backs in this league, they're able to produce all of the time. That's what my challenge would be to him. Let's take it to the next level and be that player week in and week out.” -- Hue Jackson
After a long stretch of sometimes non-existent rushing, the Browns broke out in a big way Week 14 against the 49ers. Crowell led the charge with a career-high 145 yards and two touchdowns, collecting the majority of his damage on two big runs, the longest being a career-best 54 yarder. Johnson didn’t find the end zone on this day, but he chipped in with a career-high 78 yards on 13 carries. The total of 230 rushing yards was 114 better than any previous mark on the season.
The Browns didn’t get much of a look at Johnson during the preseason because of two, separate injuries. A sore hamstring limited him through the first couple of weeks and a concussion suffered in his first preseason game put him on ice until the season opener. That slow start carried into the first two weeks of the season, but Johnson broke out with six catches Week 3 against the Raiders and followed through with that kind of impact throughout the remainder of his rookie season. He finished with the second-most receptions by a rookie in Browns history (61) and was second among all NFL rookies, trailing only Oakland’s Amari Cooper. Johnson had 165 touches for an average of 5.5 yards.
Outlook for 2016
Jackson was very optimistic when he discussed Cleveland’s situation at running back last month. His praise for Johnson, in particular, was very strong. Crowell showed what he can do during the final month of the season when the ball was placed in his hands repeatedly, no matter the situation. He also developed into a much-improved pass catcher Cleveland could rely upon. It’s a formidable, young combination with plenty of upside, but the Browns will look to get better across their entire roster, and the running back position certainly will be evaluated. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is considered to be the top running back in this year’s draft and is anticipated to be a first-round pick.