After a season where Peyton Hillis stood out not just in the AFC North, but the league, one might think that Cleveland's running game is the least of their problems. That would be entirely false. While Hillis is certainly the best back currently on the roster, and a truly special player, he can't do it alone. Hillis' dangerous, sometimes self-destructive running style, while exciting, is exactly the type that wears a player down.
It certainly did.
Not only did Hillis look tired at the end of the year, but almost every NFL defense knew what two routes Hillis would be running. We may have got more production out of Hillis, if we had been able to produce in the passing game, but it appeared the Browns were a one trick pony last season.
Granted, Hillis is a heck of a trick, it just wasn't enough. With next to nobody behind Hillis the Browns were forced to play him 90 percent of the time. He was a true workhorse back, which in today's NFL isn't always a good thing.
With nobody to rely on as "reliable" Hillis is going to be forced to do it himself again next season, unless some change is made.
Here's my solution:
Dion Lewis, a two time All-Big East conference player and simply dynamite young running back out of Pittsburgh, is going to be turning some heads next season. Like many scouts have said, his skill-set is reminiscent of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The claims are not patronizing, either, as Lewis really does run with the same quick style associated with Jones-Drew.
For starters, the two both have very quick solid jab steps that they use to juke defenders right out of their shoes. Lewis literally can stop on a dime and accelerate to full speed almost instantaneously. Oh, and did I mention that Lewis went to Pitt without a scholarship? Hard to imagine, right?
Lewis came in as a walk-on and defied all odds as he was named the successor to now Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. That is a testament to the amount of effort that Lewis would bring to the Cleveland Browns backfield.
Also like Jones-Drew, Lewis is rather small, but he uses this as an advantage, as he is allusive and is able to make plays that many thought were doomed to fail.
Lewis is also a very good receiver coming out of the backfield. He has solid hands and is able to accelerate away from the line on quick screens. It seemed like every Big East defense had to account for Lewis, not only in the running game, but in the passing game as well. He gave a lot of linebackers nightmares.
Having a guy like Lewis would force defenses to chase after him, and make sure they tackled him fully every time he touched the ball. This would make even elite defenses like the Steelers more than gassed and would only become bodies to be knocked over by Hillis' power running in the second half.
Lewis brings much more to the table than just a "change-of-pace" guy that most of the other guys we could draft would. Coming with a fifth round price tag, you can't pass on this guy.