The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts made a blockbuster trade yesterday, and that’s something you rarely see in the NFL. Trent Richardson was shipped to the Colts for a first-round pick, as the Colts looked to add some offensive help after losing three key members of the offense to season-ending injuries in running back Vick Ballard, left guard Donald Thomas, and budding star tight end Dwayne Allen.
To replace Richardson as the starter, the Browns will either sign Willis McGahee if he passes his physical or will have to resort to starting Chris Ogbonnaya (ugh) this season. But the Browns don’t seem to be playing for this season after this trade, and it’s also a lot more interesting to look at the future for the Browns at running back. They aren’t going to go forward with Ogbonnaya as the starter, barring any freak breakout from him, and they most certainly don’t view a guy like McGahee as the running back of the future.
The running back of the future, though, is already on the Cleveland Browns roster, and his name is Dion Lewis. He was also part of a trade this year, except he was dealt to Cleveland from the Philadelphia Eagles for linebacker Emmanuel Acho. That deal was a downright steal for the Browns, because the Eagles only traded Lewis due to an insane amount of wealth at running back (Lewis wasn’t going to get an opportunity with fellow Pitt alumn LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown ahead of him).
Dion Lewis was extremely impressive in training camp, and Norv Turner and Browns beat writers were raving about him. Most of the Browns fans I’ve spoken with are really optimistic about Lewis’s future, and he’s a very talented running back. Lewis was compared to by Turner as a Darren Sproles kind of player, but I think Lewis is different. Lewis is a bit bigger than Sproles, and his running style his harder. He’s also not as good of a pass-catcher, but he’s a better pure rusher and can thus be a No. 1 back.
Due to his performances in training camp and terrific offseason performances while with the Eagles, Lewis looked like the unquestioned backup to Trent Richardson and would have held an underrated role with the Browns. But the undervalued No. 2 back fractured his fibula in the second preseason game, and he was placed on the injured reserve as a result.
At this point in time, Dion Lewis is the most talented running back on the Cleveland Browns roster, and he’s also extremely young at 22. 2014 is a contract year for Lewis, and I think the Browns should give him every opportunity to be “the guy” for this team. He showed a lot of flashes in training camp, and he also looked like a very promising RB in Philadelphia. In two seasons there, Lewis received 36 carries and turned them into 171 yards for an average of 4.75 yards per carry. He’s an intriguing player, and I think people shouldn’t sleep on Lewis. While it’s a stretch to say that he will be the Browns feature back, I don’t think it’s a stretch to state that he can be the Browns No. 1 guy in 2014.