The Browns are deep enough at running back that they withstood an injury to their free agent starter, and still ran well with a pair of rookies.
But when Ben Tate returned, that meant chopping up the workload among three of them. That’s caused them to wonder about their ability to get into a rhythm, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had an easy solution to the problem.
“If they want to be out there more, they need to separate themselves and show that they’re obviously better than the other guy and we’ll keep them out there more,” Shanahan said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I don’t ever worry about running backs getting into a rhythm. They’re not quarterbacks. When you hand them the ball they better run hard and do as good as they can.”
Tate should know about not getting into a flow, having backed up Arian Foster for four years in Houston. So he empathizes with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, who have had fewer opportunities lately.
“I had to do that for four years,” Tate said. “You just have to be ready at all times. You just have to watch and pay close attention to what’s going on and ask. When I was doing that, I would ask Arian [Foster] how the ‘backers are flowing. You have to be very in-tune with the game and understand what’s going on so when you’re out there you don’t miss a beat. I understand what they’re saying. Trust me. I’ve been there. If anybody knows, I know.
“Even now, sometimes you feel like your rhythm gets interrupted but you just have to deal with it. You have to do whatever’s best for the team.”
Tate has naturally gravitated into the lead role, but both West and Crowell have shown that they could do so as well. It’s a luxury for the Browns, as other teams who want to run have a hard time keeping backs on the field.
But it’s also going to take some ego managing on the part of coaches, to make sure they all stay engaged if they’re not the one getting fed that day.