(The OBR will do a position-by-position review of each of the Browns positions as the team heads toward the 2015 season. The second part will be the running back position.)
The Browns under Kyle Shanahan were committed to the run and finished markedly higher than they did in 2013. The Browns rushed for 17 touchdowns, which was good for third-best in the NFL. In contrast the Browns rushed for just four touchdowns in the entire 2013 season.
The Browns did it in a different way then what they likely envisioned prior to the season.
The Browns signed Ben Tate as an undrafted free agent and expected him to be the bell cow back. However, after rushing for 41 yards in the first quarter of the season opener, Tate sprained his knee and missed the next two games. While Tate was out, rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell showed promise and Tate was subsequently waived several weeks after his return.
West and Crowell combined for 1,280 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a team, the Browns finished 17th in the NFL in rushing averaging 108 yards a game, which was more than 21 yards a game better than the Browns had in 2013.
However, the Browns were averaging 146.4 yards a game rushing when center Alex Mack suffered a broken leg. The running game was not the same the rest of the season as three other players played the center position.
West and Crowell showed flashes of brilliance but also were inconsistent, at times.
Terrance West – West started the season strong in relief of Tate and rushed for 100 yards against the Steelers. In between, West was benched twice deemed as ‘coach’s decision’ and finished the season with 94 yards against the Ravens.
West played in 14 games with six starts. He was a healthy scratch in one game and was inactive in another. The Browns traded up in the third-round to acquire West from Towson State.
All totaled, West led the team with 673 yards on 171 carries (3.9 avg.) with four touchdowns. West caught 11 passes for 64 yards (5.8 avg.), including a touchdown.
Isaiah Crowell - Crowell came out of nowhere to make the team with a strong preseason finale game against the Bears after being an undrafted rookie free agent from Alabama State. When Tate injured his knee in the season opener, it allowed Crowell the opportunity to show his skills. He scored a touchdown on his first NFL carry and had a knack for the goal line scoring six touchdowns.
Crowell carried the ball 148 times for 607 yards (4.1 avg.) and six touchdowns. Crowell also caught 9 passes for 87 yards (9.7 avg.).
Crowell was active for all 16 games, including four starts.
Shawn Draughn - Draughn was signed off waivers late in the season and played in four games. He didn’t carry the ball from scrimmage, but was used as a kick returner and picked up 115 yards on five attempts, including a long of 39 yards.
Glenn Winston - The third rookie, Winston did not carry the ball during the season and is expected to get a chance to compete for playing time in 2015 in training camp. Winston was signed off waivers after he was released by the 49ers in the final roster cuts after he led San Francisco in rushing in the preseason. Winston was active for five games and played on special teams.
Summary: The Browns feel between the trio of West, Crowell and Winston they will be able to handle the rushing game. Both West and Crowell should be better in their second year. Pettine will continue make them compete each week for carries and hopefully, bring out the best in the talented young backs.
(Next Up: We’ll take a look at the receivers)