Isaiah Crowell Becoming a More Integral Weapon for Cleveland


For most of Ben Tate’s tenure with the Cleveland Browns, he was disappointing. The organization tried again and again to feed him the ball and get him back up to speed, but he proved to be a lost cause. In the midst of the final stage of Tate’s falling off, Isaiah Crowell has made the most of his recent surge of touches.

Over the past three weeks, Crowell was responsible for 36.19% of Cleveland’s total rushing attempts. Through the eight games prior to that stretch, only 21.05% of Cleveland’s market share carries were credited to Crowell. In that longer stretch of games, Crowell had just as many games with 10+ carries (3) as he did over the past three weeks (3, obviously).

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A player as talented as Crowell was being terribly misused at just over 20% of the team’s carries. He is, and always was, a better runner than Terrance West and Ben Tate, but he had been given so few opportunities to shine. In many of his opportunities, Crowell displayed the vision, burst, fluidity, and strength necessary for a running back to thrive in the NFL. Finally, it seems as if the Browns have become more reliant on using his talent to its full potential.

What makes Crowell the most useful and effective weapon out of the backfield in Cleveland is his lack of restriction. He can run downhill with power and decisiveness, allowing him to “win” short yardage situations and be a piece that gets respected on play action, which is a critical concept for Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

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Likewise, Crowell is a threat outside of the tackles. He flies to the edge, makes his cut and gets up the field without any hesitation or sluggishness. With Crowell in the backfield, defenses can not over-commit to one style of running over the other because Crowell will beat you with whatever is unattended. Of course, the play call is not up to him, but it would be a mistake to assume Shanahan would not see a defensive tendency and adjust to put his players in prime position to win.

No matter the run concept, Crowell does one thing much better than anyone else on the roster does: create for himself. Behind an offensive line as good as Cleveland’s (when Alex Mack is healthy, that is), there is a good chance that, on any given play, an open lane will be there for the running back. Though, when there is not, West has issues doing much on his own, mostly due to lack of vision and instincts, as well as much lateral burst.

Reversely, Crowell seems to have a 6th sense for where defenders are and where the open field/lane is. In addition, his ability in short areas to stop and start quickly while keeping momentum enables him to shift to the correct lane and break a tackle in the process, if necessary.

Isaiah Crowell’s new usage is more fitting and representative of what his rookie self is capable of. Even more impressive is that there are still areas of his game that he can improve on to make him a more viable and complete three-down back. When he does so, Crowell will be one of the better backs in the league, assuming he continues to get his deserved portion of carries.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for a talent like Crowell. Getting him more and more NFL carries will do nothing but let him get comfortable and start his ascension to being one of the best at his position.