Browns backfield will have a different look in 2018

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns close out the season on Sunday, which may be the last time DeShone Kizer and Isaiah Crowell share a backfield together.

The Cleveland Browns will close out the 2017 regular season on Sunday when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That will be the last time we will see the Browns in a game that matters until next September, and by then the club’s backfield should look very different.

The Browns possess the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, which they will most likely use to select a quarterback. The Browns are also expected to be in the market for a veteran quarterback in free agency in case the shiny new rookie is not ready to start on opening weekend.

In either scenario, Sunday looks to be the last time we will see DeShone Kizer start a regular season game for the Browns for quite some time.

Kizer had more downs than ups as a rookie — he has only had two games where he did not throw an interception — but he will also finish the season with the second-most passing yards by a Browns rookie.

And if not for the incompetence of head coach Hue Jackson, Kizer would have been the first quarterback to start all 16 games since Tim Couch in 2001. (That may not be a big deal for most franchises, but these are the Browns so you take your victories where you can find them.)

Through it all, Kizer has held up pretty well, especially compared to some of the other quarterbacks we’ve seen come through town. But it will be one of the biggest upsets if he lines up behind center in Week 1 of the 2018 season.

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In addition to a new starting quarterback in 2018, it would not be a surprise to see the Browns have a new starting running back as Isaiah Crowell will be a free agent after this season. And given the way the year has played out, Sunday will likely be the last time the Browns “feed the Crow.”

Crowell remains a bit of an enigma as a running back, ripping off a big run on one carry only to trip over his one feet on the next. He will fall short of his goal of rushing for 1,000 yards this season, but in his four years with the Browns he has posted 3,868 yards from scrimmage, which is the highest total of any Browns player since 1999.

Crowell also has an outside shot of finishing Sunday’s game in seventh place on the franchise’s all-time rushing list and has combined with Duke Johnson over the past two years to help the Browns average 4.7 yards per carry, the second-best mark in the NFL.

Crowell’s rushing numbers would probably be better if the Browns were not near the bottom of the league in rushing attempts the past two seasons, but when you have the type of quarterbacks on the roster that the Browns do, why wouldn’t you go pass happy?

In any event, Crowell seems ready to move on from the Browns and Jackson’s puzzling play calling, and the Browns will likely feel the same. With five draft picks in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Browns select a running back once they take care of the quarterback position.

Of course, how much more productive a new running back will be, especially if they only touch the ball 10-12 times a game, and never after halftime, remains to be seen.

Next: Browns potential draft target: Lamar Jackson

As sure as winter has arrived on the North Coast, change is coming to the Browns and the biggest impact may be felt in the backfield.