A growing story line within Berea is how the Cleveland Browns are handling their three talented running backs. Depth is always a problem teams want to have, especially at an injury-prone position like running back. But the situation in Cleveland is heating up.
Against the Jaguars, Ben Tate saw 18 carries, Isaiah Crowell 7 and Terrance West 5. Crowell and West are still adjusting to the NFL as rookies. They understand their carries will always come under fluctuating circumstances. But that doesn't mean they don't want the rock every play.
"I was surprised a little, but I don't let it get to me at all," said Crowell about his seven carries the game after he tore up the Steelers for 77 yards on 11 carries. "It's hard to get into rhythm with three guys just because you don't get warm. You come to the sideline and get kind of cold. But it's been working so far. We've been winning games. I don't have a problem with it."
"Back in prep school we had Carlos Hyde, me and another guy," said West about his experience in the three-man running back rotation. "It's difficult sometimes because running backs have to feel a defense out and get in a good rhythm. But I mean at the end of the day, it's about winning."
West was honest and said he's got to stop trying to hit home runs when first-down yardage is available. On third-and-2in the second quarter, West tried to make a fancy juke move instead of picking up the first down. The Browns then opted to for it on fourth-down and Brian Hoyer misfired on a throw to Jordan Cameron. Three plays later the Jaguars took the lead before half – a lead they held for the entirety of the game.
"I'm a rookie I'm going to learn from it," said West. "Some of the best running backs to play the game made the same mistakes before. It's all about how you react to it."
Pettine said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery will contemplate the current strategy and the Browns' head coach will be involved in that discussion.
It was a completely different game and less stellar run defense, but the Browns' offense did seem to thrive using only two running backs against the Steelers on October 12th when Tate and Crowell combined for 158 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Last week we wrote about how Crowell's explosive, yet violent style are challenging for defenses to stop.
Then again, as we detailed earlier on Monday, everything starts with the offensive line for the Browns. Their ineffectiveness as a unit and subsequent commitment to improve this week could make all the difference against the Oakland Raiders – no matter who is running the ball for the Browns.