If there’s any doubt about who the Browns’ feature running back is heading into the 2016 season, Isaiah Crowell would like to put that to rest. For that matter, so too would coach Hue Jackson.
While speaking to Dan Labbe for cleveland.com, Crowell revealed a lofty goal for the season ahead — 1,000 yards rushing. Of course, that presumes the third-year ballcarrier won’t be in a timeshare with Duke Johnson in the Browns’ backfield, but Crowell doesn’t think that will wind up being the case.
“I feel like everything I’ve been waiting for is here now,” Crowell said. “I feel like we have a coach that wants to establish the run game and I really appreciate that because I feel like that’s something that’s very important. I want to be a part of it.”
As for the head coach’s thoughts on Crowell’s workload this year, Jackson sounds like he’s on board.
“Only a thousand?” head coach Hue Jackson replied when told about the prediction. “Why not more?”
Crowell has had opportunities to become the Browns’ primary runner in the past. As a rookie, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns over 16 games, four starts, but had issues holding on the ball, fumbling three times. In 2015, the 23-year-old again appeared in 16 games, starting nine, but only averaged 3.8 per attempt.
It seems Crowell will get another shot, but Johnson is still expected to be the third-down back in obvious passing situations. And seeing as the Browns could find themselves in the position of trailing opponents often, that might mean more work for the other guy.
Crowell did improve as a receiver out of the backfield in last season, hauling in 19 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t fumble the ball once in over 200 total touches either. And at 5-foot-11, 225 pounds, Crowell certainly has the build to withstand the punishment of a bellcow back.
With all that in mind, Crowell’s goal of 1,000 yards might not be very bold at all, especially if the coach is as willing to hand it off he says.