BEREA, Ohio -- On a Cleveland Browns team that went through six quarterbacks and struggled to move the ball down the field at many points during the 1-15 2016 season, running back Isaiah Crowell still found a way to rush for nearly 1,000 yards.
And with a retooled offensive line including the additions of interior blockers Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter, the emergence of young wide receivers in training camp and improved play out of the quarterback position, the Browns are expecting big things from Crowell in 2017.
“Nothing short of a spectacular year,” running backs coach/run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said prior to Tuesday’s practice.
“He has worked extremely hard here during training camp. He has all of the physical tools. We think that his work ethic and his attitude about how he approaches his job every day should lead to a really special season for him.”
Last year, Crowell rushed for 952 yards and seven touchdowns on 198 carries over 16 games for a Browns team that saw six players take snaps at quarterback because of injuries and ineffective play. Also, Crowell caught 40 passes for 319 yards and 14 first downs.
A free-agent signing out of Alabama State University after the 2014 NFL Draft, Crowell’s 2016 rushing yards, carries and catches, as well as rushing and receiving first downs were single-season career highs.
“It is about understanding the defense, where each player is going to fit in their run responsibilities,” Wilson said.
“That comes with studying the game, studying defenses, watching tape and acquiring more knowledge as you watch about a certain defense. I think he has improved in that area, and every year, you can get better at that as a runner.”
Because Crowell has redoubled his efforts to improve his game, both on and off the field, Wilson feels his starting running back could be one of the best in the National Football League by season’s end.
“Physically, he is gifted,” Wilson said. “He has what all of the good ones have, the special ones. He has great vision, outstanding instincts and the ability to change directions that are on par with anyone in this league.
“The physical tools are there. The work ethic arrived last year, and this year, he is taking it to another level because he is hungry. When someone is hungry and he wants something so bad, that is what you see. You see a guy who plays desperate because they want something so bad.”
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