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Browns Mailbag: What's the plan at RB beyond Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson?

The Browns are eight days away from their longest break before the 2016 season.

Can you believe it's already that close?

On with the questions!

With all the dings that running backs take in a season, do we have solid third and fourth slotted backs who can step up and prevent a huge falloff in production? -- Gale N., Winneconne, Wisc.

First off, it's been made clear throughout the offseason that Hue Jackson likes what he has in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. The duo is young and each player collectively has his best football ahead of him. Perhaps most importantly, it should be noted both were available for all 16 games last season. They battled through their bumps and bruises -- Johnson, especially, who missed most of the preseason with a couple of injuries -- but were available when the Browns needed them most -- Sunday. Crowell hasn't missed a game due to injury since he joined the Browns as an undrafted rookie in 2014.

Alas, depth is imperative everywhere, no matter the track record. Look at the Arizona Cardinals of 2015. When top back Chris Johnson went down late in the season, they turned to their No. 3 RB, rookie David Johnson. The Cardinals didn't miss a beat and rode the rookie all the way to the NFC Championship. In Chicago, rookie Jeremy Langford picked up the slack when star back Matt Forte went down. In Seattle, Thomas Rawls emerged as one of the league's top backs in place of an injured Marshawn Lynch.

For Cleveland, the answer behind Crowell and Johnson may start with Terrell Watson, a second-year player who spent all of last season on Cincinnati's practice squad. Clearly, he has some familiarity with Jackson. Watson was the first new addition to the Browns roster after Jackson's hiring.

Earlier this offseason, Jackson confirmed Watson, a big back at 6-foot-1 and 242 pounds, was definitely a running back and not an option at fullback. He's used to making big plays and carrying the load, as he amassed 4,756 rushing yards and 78 rushing touchdowns during his career at Azusa Pacific. In 2014, he led all of college football with 2,153 rushing yards.

The other options at the position are Raheem Mostert and Glenn Winston, who are in their second and third seasons, respectively, but have had minimal carries.

"We have a really young group, probably the youngest collection of backs that I have ever worked with," run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said last week. "It's exciting because each one of them brings a different trait to the table. They are very eager, they all want to improve themselves and have a career in the National Football League, and that is a part of my job, developing backs. If you look at my background as a coach, that is where I have done my best work, developing players that maybe weren't drafted or who were late-round guys into dominant players in the National Football League."

The Browns took to the field as a part of the team's Organized Team Activities.

Any way Justin Gilbert or Pierre Desir moves to safety? - Rome J., Ravenna

Never say never, but there's been no indication that sort of move is in the works. Desir has received plenty of experience over his first two seasons -- perhaps more than what was envisioned after coming out of Division II Lindenwood University -- and Gilbert has received strong praise for his performance thus far in OTAs.

Do you think the Browns are capable of winning more than three games next year? -- Bill Z., Cleveland

I certainly do. The Browns had plenty of opportunities to win more than three in 2015 but were on the wrong end of far too many close results. Jackson and his coaching staff are working hard to get those players ready and prepared to face those late-game situations with confidence and come away with more victories because of it.

With the right tackle spot being open would Shon Coleman or Austin Pasztor be the better starting bet? -- Ty K., Stow

Too early to tell. The players have yet to put on the pads and Coleman has been unavailable so far as he continues to recover from an injury he sustained near the end of his college career. Pasztor has experience at right tackle, but he's primarily played guard since he joined the Browns last season. The two players who have received some significant action at right tackle during OTAs are Alvin Bailey and fifth-round OL Spencer Drango.

Are we confident in our placekicking, as it's an area of importance I feel was overlooked. -- Jimmy B., Dallas, Pa.

As it stands now, second-year kicker Travis Coons is the only player at his position on the 90-man roster. That could very well change in the coming weeks and months, but Coons has attacked the offseason and impressed special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, who has worked with him on his lift.

"He's gotten stronger," Tabor said. "We've really worked hard on the lift on his football. I can see him improving there, along with his kickoffs. I'm excited about which way he's trending."

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