It’s mid-July and training camp is right around the corner. In just a few more Sundays, football will be back. The smell of fresh cut grass, grilled meats and stale beer is in the air. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Sunday.
The 2013 Cleveland Browns running game ranked 28th in the league. I find it hard to believe there were teams worse at runnning the ball than Cleveland, as it was the most inept since 1999. Trent Richardson was traded early in the season and the Browns signed veteran Willis McGahee. The one time Miami Hurricane stand out led the Browns in rushing with 377 yards on 2.7 yards per carry. Even in a “passing league,” these numbers are pitiful. 2014 will see some new faces in the Cleveland backfield.
Cleveland signed free agent Ben Tate and drafted Terrence West in the third round. Will “Tate and West” become this generation’s “Mack and Byner” and rush for 1,000 yards a piece? Highly unlikely, but there is reason to be optimistic for the Browns’ new duo.
Ben Tate spent the beginning of his career as the primary back-up for Houston Texans’ All-Pro Arian Foster. He did very well when Foster was injured, and served as a great spell back when he was healthy. He is a runner who likes to make one cut and go, which should be a nice change of pace from the “happy feet” of Trent Richardson. Rumor has it, the old brass of Holmgren and Heckert wanted to draft Tate in the 2010 Draft, but were jumped by the Texans. The Browns took Montario Hardesty one pick later and he is no longer in the league.
Terrence West played his college football at Maryland’s Towson University, not exactly Auburn where Ben Tate played. Against those fierce CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) defenses, West put up gawdy numbers. West immased 2,509 rushing yards on 6.1 yards per carry with 41 touchdowns at Towson, in his junior season alone! Hopefully West’s knack for finding the endzone in college translates to goal line success for Cleveland in 2014.
For the sake of comparison, Terrence West could prove to be a “poor man’s” Ray Rice. Rice and West are both short (5’8, 5’9) and stalky (220 lbs) with speed to boot. Hopefully Terrence West doesn’t have a knack for getting in domestic disputes in Atlantic City elevators like Rice does. Let’s take a look at West and Rice’s combine numbers side-by-side:
When either Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel take the field to play the Steelers in Week 1, star reciever Josh Gordon will probably not be there. Gone are the 1,600+ recieving yards from a year ago, the Browns have a lot of offense to replace. It’s safe to say whoever the quarterback, he will be relying on his running backs.
On the cold shores of Lake Erie, running the football is and will always be very important. The Browns had adequate running attacks in 2002 and 2007, the only two winning seasons they’ve had since 1999.
The duo of Tate and West should set their goals around 1,300 yards and 9 touchdowns. If they can manage this, the quarterback should have a reliable backfield to ease the stress of replacing Josh Gordon. Before we compare them to Mack and Byner, Tate and West must emulate their Green and White fore fathers. I can hear Jim Donovan screaming “RUN, WILLIAM, RUN!” right now. It’s certainly beginning to feel a lot like Sunday.