The rookie with the moves
*Terrance West – 47 carries, 204 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns *
On the first day of training camp, no player drew more cheers from Browns faithful than West. He was hauling in one-handed catches and making linebackers slip like he was Allen Iverson playing point guard.
"He's dangerous," said running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery.
The danger went away, slightly, in the preseason. West was trying too hard. He wanted every run to go for 30 yards, and kept running side-to-side to create something that wasn't there. The struggles were so apparent that coach Mike Pettine named Ben Tate the winner of the competition sooner than expected.
But then Week 1 happened. Tate sprained his knee, West trotted out onto Heinz Field for his first NFL snaps and tore the Steelers defense to shreds (16 carries, 100 yards – nearly all of it in the second half). His vision and one-cut style of running have improved night and day since August.
One thing has become clear in just three weeks from the rookie running back: West's future in the NFL is as bright as any rookie in the league.
The rookie with the power
*Isaiah Crowell – 27 carries, 127 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns *
Crowell's legs look like tree trunks. He's chiseled from head to toe with an NFL body ready to punish linebackers and defensive backs that stand in his way. Crowell's running style has evoked comparisons to Marshawn Lynch. He has a second gear of speed once he hits the open field. The 21-year-old was taking reps with the first-team during practice over the bye week.
"If a guy's been productive, you find ways to get him on the field more," said Pettine. "That's a good problem to have, when you have a back who, before the season, you weren't factoring in on being a big part of what you're doing and he's being productive. You find ways to get him out there."
It's almost unbelievable to think Crowell almost did not make the roster. Cleveland used the Alabama State alum sparingly in the preseason. A strong showing against Chicago in the preseason finale catapulted Crowell to the 53-man roster, and like his running mate West, he's grabbed the opportunity by the horns.
"He's doing the small things we want him to do by hitting the holes hard, hitting them quick, explosive," said Montgomery. "At the same time, he's making mistakes just like a young back is going to make mistakes. There's still some growing in that area for him. I think the more he plays, the better he's going to get. That comes with time."
Ben Tate – 6 carries, 41 yards, 6.8 yards per carry
In the preseason and in his lone half of action against the Steelers, Tate was without question the most important player on offense. He's not terribly fast or strong and he's not flashy but Tate grinds for tough yardage and he's smart. He can scan his eyes to find holes with ease.
Because of West and Crowell's prowess, Tate might not be getting 20-25 carries when he returns from his injury, but it's been made pretty clear the 26-year-old is still the running back the coaches highly regard.
"Coach Pettine is always talking about how there are a million that we can get better at," said Montgomery. "Tate is beyond, whereas the other guys still have to climb that mountain."