2016 Cleveland Browns roster analysis: The running backs

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Dec 11, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Danny Vitale (40) drops a sure touchdown during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Bengals won 23-10. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Danny Vitale, Fullback

Vitale was drafted in the sixth round, 197th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2016 Draft. The Northwestern product failed to make the final 53-man roster and was released by Tampa Bay. Buffalo claimed him the following day but he failed his physical.

Vitale then rejoined Tampa Bay as a member of their practice squad. The Browns signed Vitale to the active roster in October after releasing fullback Malcolm Johnson.

Vitale is considered to be a hybrid fullback. In his college he flashed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In his four-year career at Northwestern he caught 135 passes for 1,427 yards and 11 touchdowns. His college production indicates he can develop into a solid H-back and receiving role.

With the Browns, Vitale was primarily used as a blocker in short yardage situations. In nine games he caught four passes for  27 yards. Browns fans will remember he dropped a wide open touchdown at the goal line against Cincinnati.

Aug 19, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Darius Jackson (34) in action during the game against the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys defeat the Dolphins 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Darius Jackson

Jackson was drafted in the sixth round, 216th overall by the Dallas Cowboys out of Eastern Michigan this past April. Jackson was a camp standout for the Cowboys. Jackson was on the active roster but was inactive for games until the Cowboys cut him in December.

The Browns immediately claimed him the following day via waivers. Jackson was inactive for the Browns’ final three games but the move was made looking toward the future. Jackson is an athletic freak who had a record-breaking pro day. At his pro day, Jackson ran 4.35 and 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. Those numbers are quite impressive for a back who weighs in at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds.

Jackson has elite size and speed which makes him an early candidate to make the Browns roster next season. With a strong offseason, Jackson can push for carries and contribute in some capacity with his raw athletic ability.

May 26, 2015; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back
May 26, 2015; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back /

Glenn Winston

Winston has been a member of the Browns since 2014 when they claimed him off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers.

In his three seasons in Cleveland the running back has failed to stay healthy. In 2014 Winston was only active for five games and logged zero carries. In 2015 he battled a knee injury throughout training camp and was not activated until Week 10. He received one carry for -8 yards and fumbled.

In 2016 he was fighting for a roster spot before hurting his shoulder in training camp. Instead of releasing him, the Browns placed him on IR in hopes he is healthy to compete for a job in 2017

Rajion Neal

Neal was signed during training camp to provide another running back body for the dog days of camp. Neal was not in line to make the final 53-man roster and was placed on IR with a knee injury.

Next: Building like the Falcons

Like Glenn Winston, the team liked what Neal showed in his brief time with the team and will be entering training camp at the bottom of the depth chart.