Ranking the Running Game Pt. 22: Cleveland Browns
Part 22 of a 32 part series, a running back position analysis of each franchise. There is a tremendous amount of optimism in Cleveland about the Browns this off-season and probably as much since their return to Cleveland. Yes, the 2007 Browns missed the playoffs, but they won more games than the ’02 Browns, the only postseason entrant in the “new” franchise history. That’s the good news and now the bad news; the only team the Browns beat that finished with a winning record was the NFC West Champion Seattle Seahawks at 10-6. What’s more, six of their victims—the Dolphins, Jets, Rams, 49ers and Ravens twice—finished with a combined record of 23-73. This serves as proof that fixing the defense is critical. Only 11 teams allowed more points than the Browns in 2007, but none finished better than 8-8. The process of improving the defense has begun in free agency with the dual signing of former Packer Corey Williams & former Lion Shaun Rodgers that adds size to the down lineman and should improve the run defense. The high expectations are of things to come for this franchise. The Browns didn’t want to rush rookie Brady Quinn in 2007. They didn’t have to, because QB Derek Anderson’s surprised everyone, including General Manager Phil Savage & Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski, by throwing 29 touchdown passes. Derek Anderson has been re-signed and is the starter. Coach Romeo Crennel is convinced he does not have a Quarterback controversy or Quarterback question. When recently asked he said and I quote “There’s a lot of space between now and training camp, but Derek Anderson is the starter, He won 10 games for us.” “Anderson has done a good job with his opportunity. Brady will do a good job with his opportunity when he gets it. When that’s going to come, I don’t know.” GM Phil Savage doesn’t need what is known in golf as a mulligan regarding the trade up in the 1st round to get Quinn in the draft. Savage has needed 3 years to phase out former GM/Head Coach Butch Davis’ dysfunctional roster and he has learned from his mistakes. He has focused on thorough solutions one position at a time, knowing that you can’t fix every hole at once. The top picks in the last four years Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Jr., Kamerion Wimbley and Joe Thomas have established themselves as stars. The Browns’ as a team rushed for 118.4 yards per carry.
· Jamal Lewis: 5’ 11”, 245 lbs, 298 Att, 1,304 Yards, 4.4 YPC Avg, 9 TD’s
· Jason Wright: 5’ 10’, 210 lbs, 60 Att, 277 Yards, 4.6 YPC Avg, 1 TD
· Jerome Harrison: 5’ 9”, 199 lbs, 23 Att, 142 Yards, 6.2 YPC Avg.
· Charles Ali: 6’ 2”, 265 lbs. 2nd year player from Arkansas-Pine Bluff
- Kory Chapman: 6’ 1”, 202 lbs, 2nd year player from Jacksonville State
Jamal Lewis carries the rushing load for the Browns and he was re-signed to a 3-year deal with the club. Lewis proved that he could still run and break tackles & he was better in December than in September. Wright is a good change-of-pace back. Harrison rarely gets on the field. FB Lawrence Vickers is the team’s short-yardage back and was 7-for-8 rushing on 3rd -and-1 plays. Ali is a special-teams player. The Browns should draft a running back in this draft but their 1st draft pick as of now is #121 in the 4th round. GM Phil Savage wants to trade back into the 1st round and has no problem trading a future draft pick for a player now. Their draft targets RB’s Matt Forte & Jalen Parmele. Bringing in a WR is necessary and possible targets could be D.J. Hall, Eddie Royal. Defensively, where the “Help Wanted” sign hangs, the possible targets are OLB Jeremy Thompson & Darrell Robertson.
The question for the Browns: Will Brady Quinn provide either a quality back-up or potential trade bait in the next year or two?
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