Last November, the Browns shocked the NFL world by releasing veteran Ben Tate – one of the team's marquee free-agent signings from just a few months earlier. The move was partially an indictment of his so-so play, but more so an endorsement for rookie running backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. The tandem combined for 1,280 yards and 12 touchdowns, exceeding internal and league-wide expectations.
They're at the center of this year's group heading into training camp.
THE RUNNING BACKS
What happened at OTAs? Without a doubt, running back is the hardest position to evaluate during OTAs. Rules prohibit contact, making every running play essentially a simulation. With that being said, Johnson's initial burst and speed in the open field were clearly established on film for the coaches to incorporate into game plans. Repetitions between all of the running backs, including Draughn and Lundy, were divided pretty equally.
Under the radar: We know the Browns coaches have shown endearment toward Winston, but we still don't know exactly what he can do as a running back. Claimed off waivers from the 49ers before the 2014 season, the 26-year-old was a rookie last season after a winding path at several colleges. Winston was active for six games but exclusively played on special teams. Molded in the same bruising 220-pound frame as West and Crowell, Winston will have to fight to make the roster, but, if he does, he could very well see his number called upon if injuries mount at the position.
Variables to consider: The hot hand. Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has made it clear there won't be an exact science for how carries are distributed. As an example, if West were to rush for big yards In the first half of Week 1's game against the Jets, the Browns may lean toward featuring him prominently during the second half.
Quote to note: "I was being too anxious. I feel like that will be better for Year 2. Now, I feel more confident. It's not really too much different – it's just football. I can be relaxed out there and focus on helping my team win." – Crowell
How many were kept last year? 4