Browns 60-second rant: Browns need to spread carries around

Posted Dec. 06, 2011 @ 10:02 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

The Browns have some interesting decisions to make at running back after the season. Brandon Jackson, who's out for the season with a toe injury, will be back, as will Montario Hardesty. Peyton Hillis is a free agent, and he's had a disappointing season off and on the field, but he was the Browns' best offensive player last season.

Chris Ogbonnaya merits another look next season, too. In Weeks 10 and 11, when he rushed for a combined 205 yards, he played better than any Cleveland back had this season.

Ogbonnaya also should be getting more work than he's received recently.

In the last two games. Hillis has received 31 carries, gaining 110 yards. Overall, he's gotten 83.8 percent of the carries by Browns players other than QB Colt McCoy in the last two games.

Ogbonnaya, meanwhile, had four carries for 18 yards in Weeks 12 and 13. While Ogbonnaya, the Browns' No. 3 running back behind Hillis and Hardesty, has earned a role in the passing game — he had five catches against Baltimore on Sunday — he's also earned the right to get a few more carries than he's received.

Here are the season-to-date statistics for Cleveland's top three tailbacks:

Hillis: 91 carries, 321 yards, 3.5 yards per carry, two TDs

Hardesty: 75 carries, 244 yards, 3.3 yards per carry, no TDs.

Ogbonnaya: 71 carries, 303 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, one TD.

Ogbonnaya, it should be noted, has the Browns' two longest rushes of the season (40 yards vs. Jacksonville, 32 yards vs. St. Louis). Hillis' longest rush since returning two weeks ago is 10 yards. 

Perhaps Ogbonnaya gets more work Thursday night, with Hillis now battling a hip injury. The same could be said for Hardesty, who was inactive for three games and hasn't carried in the last two games despite being active, as he tries to get back into top form after a calf injury. Hardesty's inaction has likely contributed to Hillis getting such a high percentage of the carries.

Perhaps the Browns want to use these final four weeks to make a call on Hillis. He played so well in 2010, but he hasn't come close to that level in 2011. I figure the Browns would also like to see what Hardesty, who has been plagued by injuries in his first two seasons, can do in the final quarter of the season.

Me? I want to see more of Ogbonnaya. More work for Hardesty wouldn't be a bad thing, either. The same can be said for Joshua Cribbs.

What shouldn't happen, however, is for Hillis to keep getting roughly five of every six carries the rest of the way. Hillis' hip injury could force the Browns to reconsider how they use their backs on Thursday night, but even if Hillis is 100 percent, giving him the vast majority of the carries isn't the right move, considering his production.