Cleveland Browns: How will the running back workload be shared?
By Randy Gurzi
The Cleveland Browns have a trio of competent running backs on their roster. How will they split the workload among them during the 2018 season?
A lot has been made of the Cleveland Browns stacked backfield. Presumed starter Carlos Hyde has been given a hefty contact which suggests the team thinks very highly of him.
They also think highly of rookie Nick Chubb, who was taken with the 35th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Then there’s of course Duke Johnson, who is fresh off a season where he caught 74 passes for 693 yards.
The question now is, how will the workload be split?
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Looking over the past few years for head coach Hue Jackson and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley doesn’t really give a clear answer. There is also two vastly different scenarios.
For Haley, he had one of the most dynamic backs in the game in Le’Veon Bell while calling the plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. With that franchise back, he wasn’t worried about overworking him.
In 2017 he had Bell on the field for more than 85 percent of the snaps, with the secondary option — James Conner — getting a paltry 6.15 percent of the snaps.
That wasn’t out of the norm for Haley who often used his feature back as a bell cow. In 2016 for example, Bell again had more than 72 percent of the snaps despite missing four games. The fact that DeAngelo Williams was relied on for four starts shows how he ended up with 25 percent of the snaps — which was more than the team would have wanted him to have.
In Cleveland it was a different story. Jackson split things nearly evenly as Johnson saw 53 percent of the snaps in 2017 and Isaiah Crowell — now with the New York Jets — had a shade over 50 percent.
The season before the numbers favored Crowell more as he had 55 percent of the snaps with 44 percent going to Johnson. This was also the norm when Jackson called plays for the Bengals as he split snaps with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill.
Another factor that clouds this question is the amount of snaps Johnson had as a receiver — which was a position he excelled in. Moving forward that could also be in jeopardy thanks to the arrival of Jarvis Landry, who will primarily operate in the slot.
Coming into the year, Jackson says Haley will be calling the shots. That leads to the belief the starter will get the bulk of the snaps, as Haley has preferred to do in the past. Having to guess, that person will likely be Hyde, with Chubb being sprinkled in and groomed to be Haley’s next bell cow of the future.
As for Johnson, he should get more snaps than previous reserves in Haley’s offense as the innovative coordinator will likely find ways to get him and Landry both working the middle of the field in passing routes.
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All this is of course still up in the air as we have yet to see Haley’s true plans. What we know for sure though, is this is the most talented Browns offense we have seen in quite some time.