3 Options for the Cleveland Browns to Replace Dion Lewis

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystAugust 16, 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 08:  Running back Dion Lewis #28 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates with wide receiver Davone Bess #15 after scoring a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 8, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns were victorious over the Detroit Lions on Thursday night, but that victory came at a high price.

Tailback Dion Lewis, who had worked his way into the primary backup role behind Trent Richardson, suffered a major injury in the game.

With Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reporting that Montario Hardesty is already set to miss 2-3 regular-season games after arthroscopic surgery on his knee, the Browns are suddenly left hurting in the offensive backfield.

Here's a look at three candidates to fill the void, from the likeliest replacement to a speculative outsider.

Chris Ogbonnaya

The likeliest scenario for the Browns may well involve either scrapping a position switch for running back Chris Ogbonnaya, who had been working as a fullback in training camp, or at least expanding the fourth-year pro's role.

The 6'0", 225-pound Ogbonnaya has gone from reserve halfback to first-team fullback this year. According to Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer, head coach Rob Chudzinski recently lauded Ogbonnaya's versatility.

He’s a guy that can play multiple positions. Sometimes it’s hard to put those guys in two different spots . . . The thing about depth charts, they don’t always tell the story of roles . . . A guy that appears sometimes as a third teamer on a depth chart is the first teamer in some sort of role in some situation for a game. Certainly, Oby is a very valuable part of what we’re doing.

Ogbonnaya has experience as a starting running back, appearing four times in that capacity for the Browns in 2011. In one of those games, the 27-year-old eclipsed 100 rushing yards.

However, if the Browns move Ogbonnaya back to tailback, it potentially hurts the team at fullback. Moreover, asking Ogbonnaya to be prepared to play both fullback and tailback on a weekly basis could lead to mental lapses on the field that the Browns can't afford.

Brandon Jackson

The Browns have another running back on the roster who has even more experience than Ogbonnaya does carrying the ball.

Seventh-year pro Brandon Jackson was the starter at running back for the Green Bay Packers in 2010, gaining over 1,000 total yards and scoring four touchdowns. In fact, it was that performance that got Jackson a free-agent deal with the Browns to begin with.

The problem is that Jackson hasn't sniffed that sort of production since then. The 27-year-old missed the entire 2011 season due to injury and played very sparingly a year ago.

Jackson's stat line against the Lions tells you everything you need to know. As his three catches for 39 yards and a score show, Jackson is a solid receiver. However, with seven carries for -2 yards, the same can't be said of Jackson as a ball-carrier.

Willis McGahee

There are a number of free-agent running backs out there looking for work, from Michael Turner and Brandon Jacobs to Beanie Wells and Cedric Benson.

Putting aside for a moment how nice it might be for the fans to see an Ohio State standout (Wells) in orange and brown, the best candidate among available running backs is probably Willis McGahee.

The reason is simple: talent.

McGahee rushed for nearly 1,200 yards as recently as 2011 and the 31-year-old was well on his way to topping 1,000 yards again last year before a knee injury ended his season.

That knee could be the biggest obstacle to McGahee coming to Cleveland. When McGahee, who suffered a devastating knee injury in college, was released by the Broncos in June, there was speculation that he wasn't physically right.

However, McGahee vehemently denied that speculation when speaking with Josina Anderson of ESPN, making it clear that he intended to play in 2013.

"I will keep playing. I don't feel like I have to go out there and say what I have left. I know what I can do," he said. "I'm not worried about it. Once I get the opportunity, it will be all good."

It's unknown if McGahee would accept a reserve role with the Browns, but if the 10-year veteran is truly serious about playing this year, the opportunity that he was looking for may just have materialized.

It's just too bad that it had to happen at Dion Lewis' expense.


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