Isaiah Crowell poised for a big season this fall

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns established a running game in 2016 under head coach Hue Jackson’s guidance. Now running back Isaiah Crowell is excited and confident the Browns will build on that success.

Quarterbacks tend to be the talking point among Cleveland Browns fans in the NFL offseason. This year has been no exception, as the Browns selected Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer in the 2017 NFL Draft and traded for Brock Osweiler a month before. Those two will battle Cody Kessler, who head coach Hue Jackson has deemed the man to beat for the starting position.

However, while the quarterback competition is certainly an area of emphasis, the focus of the Browns 2017 NFL season appears to be the running game. The team averaged 107 yards per game in 2016 – ranking No. 19 in the NFL. While the ranking is below average, the team was second best in yards per carry, and Isaiah Crowell was a top 10 rusher halfway through the season.

The running game was a ray of light shining down on the Browns amid the worst regular season in franchise history.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, the team found themselves down by double-digits consistently throughout the season. The only hope to put themselves in a position to win was to try to pass themselves back into the game, which came at the cost of eliminating the run game.

Related: PFF taps Browns offensive line as league’s second best

Averaging just shy of 60 yards per game in 2016, Crowell has continued to improve each season since entering the NFL in 2014. And despite not signing an extension with Cleveland yet, he looks forward to “shocking the world” this fall, according to a recent article in the Ledger-Enquirer:

"“I feel like we’re building something special. A lot of people are underestimating us, but I feel like we’re going to shock the world.”"

Now, how one interprets the Cleveland Browns shocking the world in 2017 is debatable. After all, the team is coming off of a 1-15 record in 2016. But the front office made some significant additions in the offseason, including bolstering the offensive line by signing center J.C. Tretter from the Green Bay Packers and right guard Kevin Zeitler from the Cincinnati Bengals.

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Those two will solidify Cleveland’s offensive line – something that was dearly missed since parting ways with Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz in 2015. Ten-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio will start at the left tackle and guard spot, respectively, leaving a giant question mark only at the right tackle position. Although, between Cam Erving, Shon Coleman and John Greco the Browns are confident they will be OK.

Related: Kevin Zeitler adds new dimension to the running game

This offensive line is expected to boost the team’s running game in 2017, giving Crowell plenty of opportunities to thrive. If one of the three quarterbacks can establish themselves as a quality starter, the Browns could potentially “shock the world” this fall.

One thing that is for sure in Cleveland is that Jackson and executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown aren’t playing around anymore. They are building from the bottom up, and paying millions to strengthen the offensive line proves their plan begins from the interior.

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Crowell legitimized himself in 2016 and he envisions himself improving in 2017. With a revamped offensive line and another year under Jackson, Crowell should garner quite a bit of national attention.