The Browns have had some great running backs in the franchise’s history.  Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Marion Motley, Greg Pruitt, and Mike Pruitt have all suited up in a Browns uniform.  Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, and Marion Motley are all Hall of Famers, and all exemplified what a Cleveland Browns running back should look like.  A Cleveland Browns running back is one who runs hard the whole game and never gives up.  In 1985, the Browns accomplished the rare feat of having two running backs cross the 1,000-yard mark, as Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner had 1,104 and 1,002 yards respectively.  Fast forward to the year 2014, and to paraphrase LeBron, the Browns have “not one, not two, but three” good running backs.  Ben Tate, Terrance West, and Isaiah Crowell have all followed strange career paths on their way to combine to give the Browns, The Three Horsemen.

Ben Tate: Ben Tate had an up and down career at Auburn, where he ran for 3,321 yards and 24 touchdowns in his four years with the Tigers.  His yard total ranked him 5th in Auburn history.  Tate was selected by the Houston Texans in second round of the 2010 draft, but a broken ankle forced him to miss his entire rookie season.  In his first full season, in 2011, Tate and Arian Foster became the best 1-2 running back combo in the NFL.  Arian Foster ran for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Tate ran for 942 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Tate battled injuries causing him to play in only 25 of 32 games, as he ran for a two-year total of 1,050 yards and 6 touchdowns, while serving as Arian Foster’s backup.  After the 2013 season, Tate entered free agency.

The Cleveland Browns had just suffered through one of the worst run games in recent memory, and had their sights set on Tate (Tate was considered the top free agent running back).  On March 15, 2014, the Cleveland Browns and Ben Tate agreed to a 2-year, $6.2 million contract.  The deal only contained $2.5 million guaranteed, so if Tate were to get hurt, the Browns would not have to suffer through paying him a extreme amount of money.  It also was a deal that would help Tate prove that he could become an every down and starting running back in the league.  In his first game for the Browns, Tate ripped off a 25-yard run, but had to leave the game on that play with a knee sprain.  He finished his first game as the Browns starting running back with only 41 yards, but did it on just 6 carries.  The knee sprain forced Tate to miss two games, he finally returned after the Browns bye week, and decided to run through, over, and around the Tennessee Titans the tune of 123 yards on 22 carries, helping the Browns to the largest road comeback in NFL history, as the Browns, once down by 25  points, came back to win by a score of 29-28.  On the season, Tate has amassed 164 yards on 28 carries and is projected to finish the year with 1,148 yards.

Terrance West: West has taken the path less traveled on his way to the NFL.  After being turned down by Clemson and Maryland, West was forced to play with Division II (well, actually FCS) Towson.  West was a beast at Towson his freshman and sophomore years, rushing for a combined total of 2,345 yards and 43 touchdowns.  His junior year was one for the record books though, as West ran for an FCS record 2,509 yards and 41 touchdowns (no, that is not a misprint).  West then declared for the NFL draft, and was taken in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Browns.  While West’s talent was never questioned, his level of competition was, but the Browns only saw his ridiculous stats in college and decided to take a chance.

In his first career game, West would have to face the once-vaunted Steelers defense.  With Ben Tate out of the game with a knee injury, it would be up to West to handle the majority of the run game.  West was able to do something no Cleveland Browns running back was able to at all in 2013, and that is he ran for 100 yards.  In his first game as a pro, West was able to run for 100 yards on 16 carries, and average of 6.3 yards per carry.  As the lead running back over the next two games, West wasn’t able to break the 100-yard mark, but he was able to score two touchdowns.  On the season, West has run for 235 yards on 54 carries and 2 touchdowns, as essentially the #2 running back.  West is projected to finish the season with 940 yards and 8 touchdowns, not bad for a FCS running back taken in the third round.

Isaiah Crowell: Crowell has also taken the path less traveled.  Crowell started his college career as the starting running back for the Georgia Bulldogs.  Crowell was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, as he ran for 856 yards and 5 touchdowns.  However, his time at Georgia ended quickly, as before his sophomore year, Crowell was dismissed from the school after he was arrested for a felony weapons charge.  Crowell then enrolled at Alabama State and over his two years with the team combined to rush for 1,964 yards and 30 touchdowns.  Crowell then declared for the NFL, but found no takers in the draft, as teams feared his off-the-field complications.  The Browns decided to take a chance on him, and signed him as an undrafted free agent.  Crowell impressed in training camp and the preseason, as he worked his way to a spot on the Browns opening day roster.

Crowell was not expected to get many, or even any carries against Pittsburgh in week 1, but an injury to Ben Tate moved Crowell into the backup role.  He only had 5 carries against the Steelers, but he made every one count, as he had 32 yards and 2 impressive touchdown runs, to help the Browns stage a huge comeback against the Steelers.  The comeback failed for the Browns, but the Browns realized that they had great depth at the running back position.  With Ben Tate, out for the next 2 games, the Browns did not have to worry about the running back situation.  As it currently stands, the Browns have the the 4th best running game in the league, as they average 143.3 yards per game.  On the season Crowell, the third-string running back, has 160 yards and 3 touchdowns on 33 carries.  He his projected to finish the year with 640 yards and 12 touchdowns.  While the projections may not work out according to the math, the Browns can be happy that they have one of the best young trio of running backs in the league.

— Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)

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