Cleveland Browns Running Backs: A Fragile State of Affairs

J GatskieCorrespondent IJune 3, 2016

The Browns vaunted running attack is the basis upon which the offense is built. With backs like last year's late-season phenom Jerome Harrison and rookie camp sensation Montario Hardesty, hopes within the organization and among fans are sky high.

Those euphoric feelings took a hit prior to training camp when Hardesty, who has a significant injury history dating back to college, including three knee surgeries, suffered a "twisted or a tweaked" knee depending upon the media report you read.

Yesterday, two more Browns running backs left the practice field with unknown, but likely minor, injuries. James Davis and Peyton Hillis both left the field and did not return.

On July 31st, it was announced that Hardesty would miss a couple of weeks. Today the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that he will miss the rest of training camp, which ends Thursday.

"He's in the next phase of his rehab so he'll probably be practicing next week," said Coach Mangini.

For Hardesty to have any chance at playing in the preseason and getting his feet wet before the regular season starts, he'll have to return to practice next week, so let's keep our fingers crossed.

Hardesty had earned a significant role in the Browns offense with his performance throughout the offseason. He has impressed the coaches in the classroom, as well as on the field, and earned the respect of his teammates.

He also just seems to have that special something about him. You can't quantify it, adequately describe it, or define it, but you just know it when you see him with the ball in his hands.

Time seems to slow down for him like it did for the character Wesley Gibson in the movie "Wanted."

Peyton Hillis was acquired by the Browns from the Denver Broncos in the Brady Quinn trade while James Davis is a second year back who spent the bulk of last season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury suffered in an infamous post-practice drill.

Hillis has been impressive from the start of camp as a receiver out of the backfield by showing an outstanding set of hands and just enough shiftiness to complement his bruising running style.

The former Bronco caught three balls for 34 yards against Green Bay including a 26-yard screen play during which he made two guys miss.

He keeps his pads just low enough so he doesn't get stood up and always seems to fall forward, which is a perfect trait for a third down back.

James Davis is probably the best home run threat on the team. He combines good size, 5'11", 218 pounds, with excellent speed and elusiveness and would likely challenge for significant time on any other squad. Davis makes Chris Jennings expendable.

Davis ran six times for 24 yards against Green Bay including a nice 12-yard run.

When both players left the practice field yesterday with apparent injuries, it left the team with just Jerome Harrison and Chris Jennings.

Poof, just like that, the core of our offense was jeopardized, and I will remain nervous until both players are back on the field. It's a sobering reminder that this game we love is physically demanding and at any time a team's strength can turn into a weakness in the course of a play or two.