Heading into Thursday night's preseason opener against the Redskins, the Browns list Isaiah Crowell as the starting running back.
Crowell is a talented 23-year-old who shattered his undrafted expectations in 2014 with eight touchdowns and a thundering running style. Crowell averaged 4.1 yards per carry and his two biggest games, against the Steelers at home and the Falcons on the road, were monumental Browns victories.
But just because Crowell is set to start Thursday against Washington does not mean Cleveland is ready to anoint him as its bell cow, 20-carries per game, running back. On Sunday, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery challenged one of his running backs to truly stand out and seize the job.
Crowell read the comments from his coach. He knows he still has work to do.
"Obviously I haven't," Crowell said when asked if he's earned the starting job. "So I have to keep working and keep working. The coach knows what is right and knows what is best, so I have to come out here and keep working."
If there's anyone who knows how to use the month of August as a springboard, it's Crowell. Headed into the last preseason game against the Bears, Crowell's roster spot was in serious jeopardy. On 13 carries, Crowell posted 102 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown. The performance was so overwhelming that general manager Ray Farmer opted to keep the Alabama State alum over other proven NFL veterans.
The final score against Washington on Thursday won't dictate a whole lot, but individual performances will. If Crowell comes out and carries the football like he did against Pittsburgh and Atlanta a season ago, the Browns may have no other choice but to give the second-year running back more carries Week 1 against the Jets.
"I have to come out here and just keep working hard and keep doing my job," Crowell said. "Everything will play out."