Kyle Shanahan eager for one Browns RB to 'separate himself'

BEREA, Ohio -- Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan indirectly fired some pointed remarks to the Cleveland Browns running backs on Thursday.

Shanahan described the play of Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell as "solid" and added "all have done a good job." But he wants more.

"I would love for one to step it up and separate himself from the others," Shanahan said.

Shanahan’s comments came in the context of discussing the team’s three-headed rotation. It’s a system that doesn’t necessarily make all the backs happy, but it’s a system the Browns are using.

"We got a bunch of solid guys who do a good job," he said. "For one of those to get the bulk of the carries and take off, then that’s up to them. They got to show us they’re ahead of the other guys."

Shanahan does not buy that rotating backs might be an issue.

"I don’t ever worry about running backs getting into a rhythm," he said. "They’re not quarterbacks. When you hand them the ball they better run hard and do as good as they can. If they want to be out there more they need to separate themselves and show that they’re better than the other guy, and we’ll keep them out there more.

Which would indicate that nobody with the Browns has separated himself. In six games the play breakdown has gone 150 for Tate, 135 for West and 125 for Crowell. Tate missed two games because of injury, West was inactive for one.

Tate signed as a free agent in the offseason, ostensibly to be the team’s starter. He had 124 yards against Tennessee in his first game back after a knee injury, but has gained just 114 in the two games since. West is a third-round pick whose sideways running in Jacksonville set him back. And Crowell is an undrafted rookie who has had impressive moments.

"I’ve never had to rotate a bunch of running backs, because usually I’ve had a running back who’s usually able to separate himself from the others," Shanahan said.

In Washington the past two seasons it was Alfred Morris, who had 611 carries. Before Morris arrived Shanahan did not have a standout back, but did have a back who had at least twice as many carries as the others. In Houston in 2008, Steve Slaton had 268 carries, with the next highest amount guy at 74.

For the Browns, Tate has 69 carries, West 59 and Crowell 51.

Average it out by games played and Tate is at 17, West at 12 and Crowell at 8.5.

That tilts toward Tate, and seems comparable to Morris averaging 19 carries per game the past two seasons. But Morris averaged 90 yards per game while Tate has averaged 70 (with one game cut short by injury).

Shanahan said he’s ready, willing and anxious for one guy to separate from the pack.

"When one guy does a lot better than the other guys, it means one guy’s the man and you’re going to ride that guy," he said. "I think all of our guys are solid. They’ve all done a good job. I would love for one to step it up and separate himself from the others."