Cleveland Browns need to address the running back position in 2017

The Cleveland Browns have numerous holes to fill on the roster, but with each passing week it becomes clear that running back should be on the list.

The Cleveland Browns will head into the off-season with quite an impressive list of areas that need to be fixed.

Among those items on Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown’s “honey do” list include an impact player for the defensive front seven; a second impact player depending on what happens with linebacker Jamie Collins in free agency; one, and possibly two, cornerbacks; at least one safety; a center; and, of course, a quarterback.

If that is not enough, Brown needs to add running back to that list, because with each passing week it becomes more and more clear that Isaiah Crowell is not a starting running back in the NFL.

Crowell entered the season with a stated goal of surpassing 1,000 rushing yards. Things were actually looking pretty good after the season’s first four games thanks to two big performances — a 133-yard day against Baltimore and 120-yard day against Washington.

But 11 games into the season, Crowell has just 561 rushing yards (18th in the league) and will be lucky to break 800 rushing yards this year, let alone 1,000.

Crowell’s apologists will argue that none of this is his fault, pointing fingers at the offensive line and the quarterback situation as the reason for Crowell’s short comings.

There is certainly a kernel of truth in there, especially since opposing defenses don’t have much to fear from the Browns passing game.

But when you take a look at the numbers you see that this is not a one-year problem with Crowell, but rather a continuation of his career. That makes it easy to see that Crowell remains what he has always been since joining the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2014 – a very average and very replaceable running back.

Let’s use Crowell’s 1,000-yard goal as a measuring stick for success. To break 1,000 yards in a season, a running back has to average 62.5 yards per game, which we will round up to 63.

In his time with the Browns, Crowell has had:

  • eight games this season (including the past seven in a row) where he has rushed for less than 63 yards
  • 13 games in the 2015 season where he rushed for less than 63 yards
  • 14 games in 2014 where he rushed for less than 63 yards

So in 43 career games, Crowell has rushed for less than 63 yards in a game — the benchmark for a 1,000-yard season —a staggering 35 times.

The picture is even bleaker, though, when you consider that of those 35 games, Crowell has failed to break 40 rushing yards in 23 of them.

These are not the numbers of a lead running back, Browns fans.

The good news is that the next spring’s NFL Draft is supposed to be a good one for running backs. The bad news is that the Browns have so many holes to fill it will be hard to fill them all, even with the bounty of draft picks they currently possess.

But there is no doubt that the running back position needs to be addressed as Crowell has proven that he is not the answer.

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