When the Cleveland Browns signed top free agent running back Ben Tate this offseason, the Browns – in theory – instantly boosted a running game that only rushed for 1,383 yards and four touchdowns as a team in 2013.
Last year, backup RB Dion Lewis was placed on injured reserve during the preseason and the Browns elected to trade their 2011 first-round choice Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. These transactions left Cleveland with little semblance of a running game, leading them to sign the aging Willis McGahee and unknowns Edwin Baker, Fozzy Whittaker and Bobby Rainey.
Cleveland’s new regime has focused on bringing a new offensive identity and the first order of business was to bring capable running backs into camp. Not only did the Browns sign Tate, but they also drafted Towson RB Terrance West in the third round of May’s draft.
Coming out of Towson, West was a relatively unknown name, but his stats indicate that he is capable of becoming a workhorse in the NFL. During his senior season, West set FCS records for most yards rushing (2,509) and rushing scores (41), while carrying the ball a whopping 413 times. Although he was able to display a significant amount of stamina, that type of workload could be his downfall as a professional. He certainly won’t see 413 carries in a season, but the fact that his body already has a large number of miles on it could hinder his ability to stay healthy.
West, (5-foot-9, 225 pounds) is a stout back who has proven ability to run between the tackles and pounding forward for extra yardage, but does not exhibit blazing speed (4.54 40 time). He will be a nice change of pace from Tate, who is thought to be a more balanced back in that he can run up the middle, to the outside and be a receiver out of the backfield.
It’s thought that West will be much like new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s unknown rookie RB Alfred Morris, whom he coached while with the Washington Redskins. West’s build is similar to Morris, who emerged as a star in 2012 when he rushed for over 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns during his rookie season.
During his rookie season, West could see plenty of action spelling the oft-injured Tate, making training camp a crucial time for his development and his adjustment to Shanahan’s offense. Making the transition from the FCS to the NFL will be no easy task for West, but if he can display the same kind of consistency, durability and ability to get into the end zone he displayed in college, he should be a great addition to a Browns team searching for a running game.