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Earnest Byner sees big potential in Isaiah Crowell

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Follow former Brown Earnest Byner  – @EByner  – on Twitter and you'll probably learn something about playing running back in the NFL.

The 14-year NFL veteran and longtime professional running backs coach routinely posts NFL analysis to his website and recently published a book entitled: Everybody Fumbles.

Byner has broken down some film of Browns running back Isaiah Crowell, and he likes what he sees.

"Crowell has the most potential to be the type of leader and player that the Browns need," Byner said. "His talent is there. I think he is open to learning and growing. His future is as bright as any young back in the league."

Crowell finished the season with 607 rushing yards, seven touchdowns and an average of 4.1 yards per carry. For an undrafted rookie, the Browns were thrilled with his production.

"Crow is a guy that had practiced well," coach Mike Pettine said in November. "We feel real good about just kind of where he is and the progress that he's made."

Byner also had thoughts on fellow rookie Terrance West, who wound up leading the Browns in rushing with 673 yards while also adding four touchdowns and averaging 3.9 yards per carry.

West told ClevelandBrowns.com he needs to become a better leader in 2015. In the Browns' Oct. 12 game against the Steelers, West was listed as inactive because of a "coaching decision" even though he totaled 100 yards in his prior matchup with the Steelers. West followed a Week 16 benching against the Carolina Panthers with 94 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens in his native Baltimore.

Overall, Byner paints a bright picture of West's rookie year, but also lists where the Towson product can make some improvements.

"I believe West has the talent and some natural abilities, but based on some of the film and some of the writings that I've done, he needs to focus his mind more," Byner said. "It's the details of assignments. The basic details of pass protections, his alignments, what concept are we running? He needs to understand those things prior to the snap. That will make him a better player."

Cleveland's five losses in a row to end the season left a sour taste in the mouths of everyone – coaches, players and fans. And while Byner initially had the same bitter feelings about last season, the fog has cleared enough for the two-time Pro Bowler to forecast a football team that is ripe and ready to advance its win total.

"I think the Browns went through a lot of situations in 2014 that will produce a lot of growth," Byner said. "I don't think Mike Pettine will allow his coaching staff and players not to learn from the December struggles.

"Pettine has a coolness and pedigree about him that I believe – with the commitment from the front office – I think the Browns have a chance to really develop something that can be like New England, can be like Pittsburgh, can be like Baltimore. With Pettine, Cleveland can consistently be in contention every year."

As for the book, Byner said he felt compelled to tell his story of his infamous fumble on the goal-line of the 1987 AFC Championship game that cost the Browns a shot at the Super Bowl.

"I was disappointed, I was hurt, but more than anything I was distraught for my teammates," Byner recalled. "I struggled some. On the plane ride home, I cried. I broke down. I felt like I let everyone down. After that, it took years. I was constantly being reminded about [the fumble]. I'd be walking around and people who don't even know me would yell, 'Don't fumble!' That's the reason for the name of the book because everybody messes up. Everybody fumbles."

Byner has been working on the book for 12 years, accumulating dozens of short stories of overcoming adversity in his life. His goal is to help people realize that what may seem like the biggest mistake of your life could actually help you.

"I learned to not just deal with the fumble," Byner said. "But also teach from my experiences with it."

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