Cleveland Browns:Could Harrison and Hardesty Compare To Mack And Byner?

J GatskieCorrespondent IMay 15, 2010

With the drafting of Montario Hardesty in the second round, there has been a lot of speculation that the Cleveland Browns will run a two back system this year.

Last year, Jerome Harrison had 862 yards rushing for the Browns, while Montario Hardesty went over 1,300 on the ground for Tennessee in college.

I think we would be remiss, if we did not look at the last time the Browns successfully integrated two running backs into the offense at the same time, as a point of reference.

Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner were the last pair of Browns teammates to each surpass 1000 yards rushing in the same year, in 1985. Kevin Mack was the one cut, downhill runner, similar to Montario Hardesty's profile, who had surprising speed and excellent power.

Earnest Byner was similar to Jerome Harrison, in that both were considered third down backs early in their careers, who worked their way into more prominent roles.

Adept at catching the ball, as well as light on his feet, Byner was reasonably shifty, all though he was no Barry Sanders.

During 1985, Mack and Byner, were heavily game planned for, and that left Bernie Kosar to pick defenses apart by throwing to Webster Slaughter, Reggie Langhorne, and Brian Brennan.

The combination of Mack and Byner consistently moving the chains, and the occasional big play from Kosar was enough to take Cleveland to the playoffs, where they narrowly lost to Miami in the first round.

In 1987, the backfield was even better, the Browns may have only ranked 21st rushing, but Byner had 52 catches and eight TDs rushing, and Mack led the team in rushing and had 32 receptions.

Bernie and the receivers meanwhile had an exceptional year throwing for 3,033 yards and 22 TDs in only 12 games due to the strike. Unfortunately, we all know what happened in the playoffs so I will let painful memories lie dormant.

My point, is that the Browns have two running backs that complement each other very well. Jerome Harrison is an excellent scatback, who can turn the corner and turn a five yard hitch into a sixty yard strike.

Hardesty is a 225lb wrecking ball with the quickness and agility to make the first man miss, who can run inside the tackles comfortably, and bounce outside occasionally.

Both running backs run excellent pass routes and Hardesty has a reputation for having great hands so Daboll and crew can split him out, run wheel routes, and let your mind wander with the possibilities.

Delhomme, Wallace and crew have to be happy to have these backs in their crew.

With last year's training camp phenom, James Davis, healthy and ready to go and trade pickup, Ex-Bronco Peyton Hillis, who has some decent highlights to his own credit, ready to compete, the Browns backfield should be a crowded, no holds-barred competition come training camp for time behind Harrison and Hardesty.

With the introduction of the hybrid West Coast offense this year, both backs should have plenty of touches running and receiving. Their maturation and understanding of the offense will be critical for the Browns to succeed offensively in 2010.

The Browns wide receivers are young, inexperienced and new to the hybrid also.

Delhomme will be looking to his tight ends and running backs as security blankets while he tries to wet nurse the receivers through the learning process.

Hardesty and Harrison have to avoid statistical numbers jealousy for the betterment of the squad as a whole. Harrison also needs to sign his tender, and report to camp soon, so he can begin to learn the hybrid.

I know there is money out there, and his agent Drew Rosenhaus, is infamous for wringing every last cent out of teams, but Jerome, your team needs you, and don't you think that if you have an excellent year that there will be even more money waiting for you? 

Unfortunately, I haven't seen enough of Hardesty to be able to say whether he and Harrison can be better than Mack and Byner. I think Hardesty has more physical tools than Mack did in terms of his elusiveness and agility, but time will tell.

The early reports on him ,from Daniel Wolf's Look at Minicamp, said that he looked superb and showed no signs of previous injuries.

As for Harrison and Byner, no running back I ever saw wanted it more than Byner. He may have fumbled at inopportune times, but he played his heart out and left it out on the field. I haven't yet seen that type of determination from Harrison so at this point I give Byner the edge.

The Brown's offensive line is shaping up and these two young backs could really be primed for outstanding years.

Byner and Mack were special players who had oustanding years under a great offensive coordinator, Lindy Infante, and Hardesty and Harrison are kids who are wet behind their ears.

However, with a new quarterback, weak wide receivers, a suspect coordinator and a good offensive line, the time might be right for these two to explode onto the national scene.

As a Cleveland Browns fan, I can't wait to see what Harrison and Hardesty will do in the same backfield.