Cleveland Browns’ Lack of Running Back Depth a Major Problem

By Casey Drottar
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

By now, everyone has heard about the Cleveland Browns trading running back Terrance West to the Tennessee Titans over the weekend. The team had put a lot of effort into getting West on the straight and narrow, as his maturity seemed to be an issue of concern with coaches. By trading him, Cleveland essentially dubbed West a lost cause, giving up on a player they drafted in the third round just last year.

I completely understand why the Browns felt the need to deal West. His productivity wavered on a weekly basis, and he seemed to have a permanent residence in coach Mike Pettine’s dog house. Under Pettine’s watch, the team has been trying to clean out any locker room problems, and it seems as though the trade of West is yet another example.

With this in mind, I have just one question for Cleveland.

Now what?

You see, with West gone, the Browns are now relying on Isaiah Crowell as their starting back. Behind him is rookie Duke Johnson. After those two…well, that’s kind of it. Shaun Draughn is currently on the practice squad, expected to be promoted to the active roster this week. Still, it’s tough to ignore the red flag that is Cleveland’s backfield.

In another fun twist, despite all of his potential, Johnson is recovering from a concussion, which he received after his nagging hamstring finally relented. It’s still unclear whether or not Johnson will be ready for Sunday’s regular season opener.

So, sure, trading West was probably deemed a necessity due to the character issues the Browns kept having deal with. At the same time, it’s left Cleveland’s running back depth severely depleted.

If Johnson can’t go this Sunday, the Browns are only going to be able to rely on two running backs. This situation is already a rocky one to deal with. But, what happens if Crowell or Draughn get hurt? Does Cleveland – a team with an offense built to focus on the run – keep the ball on the ground? Does the team change gears and try and move the ball through the air more often?

As you can see, there are some serious concerns about where the Browns go from here. This is not a team built to gain the bulk of its yardage via the pass. And yet, with just a couple backs to work with, the team may not have a choice.

Not to continue piling on this issue, but Crowell didn’t exactly look like a feature back in the preseason. He had his moments here and there, but his preseason looked a lot like his rookie year; a mix of strong runs and small gains.

When it comes to Johnson, the coaching staff raved about him leading up to camp. The only problem is they have yet to really see anything out of him. Sure, he could recover from his concussion. However, with that and his hamstring troubles (which he’s dealt with since high school), who knows how long he’ll be able to stay healthy.

It’s tough to believe Cleveland is going to spend the entire season working with two active running backs. Hopefully the team is scouring the cut lists of various squads to look at potential players they can bring in to add some depth. Right now, though, it’s all quiet.

If the Browns felt West was a lost cause, clearly this trade was a long time coming. Of course, if this was the case, you’d like to think the team had a backup plan ready.

We’re still waiting, but right now it looks like this wasn’t the case at all. As a result, the Browns are going to have to do some serious thinking about how they’ll be moving forward on offense this year.

Casey Drottar is the Cleveland Beat Writer for Follow him on Twitter or “Like” him on Facebook

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