COMMENTARY | One of the biggest weaknesses of the Cleveland Browns in 2013 was their rushing attack. The team averaged a paltry 86.4 yards rushing per game, ranking in a tie for 27th in the league. If the Browns want to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, they will need to vamp up their running game, either through the draft or via free agency.
The Browns have 10 draft picks this year, including five picks in the first three rounds. So should they use one of those picks on a running back? Yes they should, but the Browns should also have a contingency plan. The last Cleveland Browns running back that was drafted by the team to make it to the Pro Bowl was Kevin Mack way back in 1987.
Poor history of drafting running backs
Since the Browns came back to Cleveland in 1999, they have had a 1,000-yard rusher four times:
2005 - Reuben Droughns (1,232 yards)
2007 - Jamal Lewis (1,304 yards)
2008 - Jamal Lewis (1,002 yards)
2010 - Peyton Hillis (1,177 yards).
All three of these players were drafted by other teams. Conversely, the Browns have had little to no success at getting good running backs through the draft.
What did these three running backs have in common? They all were good at running between the tackles and breaking tackles during their short stints with the team.
Current crop of free agent running backs
There is a list of solid free agent running backs to choose from in 2014. They include Knowshon Moreno of the Denver Broncos, Ben Tate of the Houston Texans, Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars and LeGarrette Blount of the New England Patriots. So which one of these players best fit the mode of a power running back?
Moreno is not a bad option, but he had a career year on a team with the most prolific offense in NFL history. Would he be as effective on the Browns, a team with a currently unsettled quarterback situation?
Tate could be a good choice but in this case, the Browns could just give Chris Ogbonnaya and his 4.9 yards per carry a chance to start in 2014.
Jones-Drew averaged only 3.4 yards per carry in 2013. He has a lot of wear on his legs and may be on the downward spiral of his career.
So what about Blount?
At 6 feet and 250 pounds, LeGarrette Blount is a beast on the field. He carried the ball 153 times for 772 yards with the New England Patriots in 2013. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns, which was three more than the total rushing touchdowns of the entire Browns team.
Blount is very good at breaking tackles. But at the same time, he has deceptive speed as he showed in New England's 43-22 playoff victory against the Indianapolis Colts when he shredded the league's ranked 9th ranked defense for 166 yards and 4 touchdowns.
New England wants Blount back but money could be an issue. The Browns need to enter the sweepstakes and make a bid on Blount, despite his at times volatile nature.
The addition of Blount would likely help the Browns clinch a playoff berth in 2014. His running would take pressure off of the quarterback, whoever that may be, and make a promising passing game with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron that much more potent. The Browns need to sign Blount.
Ray McFarland, a lifelong Browns fan and aspiring writer, considers LeGarrette Blount as the poor man's Jim Brown.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- the Browns
- Cleveland Browns