"I have been with backs in the past where you really worry about, from a fatigue standpoint, from a body composition, the way they are built that would worry about a guy that has to carry the ball 20-22 times a game," offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said on Thursday. "'Crow' is a big guy. He is in great shape. Nothing has shown to me that 'Crow' can't be that workhorse for us."
"We are confident that he can be a lead back," said head coach Mike Pettine on Wednesday, "but also know it is very difficult and there are very few backs that are 'that guy,' that is going to touch it 20-plus times in a game. We feel good about where 'Crow' is."
Life as the featured back will require Crowell to show more versatility this season as the offense emphasizes throwing to running backs more than last year. Crowell caught just nine passes for 87 yards in 2014.
Pettine, on Wednesday, pointed to Crowell's improved route running and his overall improvement as a receiver.
"When you throw the ball to him, sometimes you cringe because he doesn't look like the most natural hands-catcher," Pettine said, "but he doesn't drop the ball. We are in a 'get it done' business. He finds a way to catch it. I think those are probably the two biggest areas that he has made strides in. We feel much more comfortable throwing him the ball this year and much more trusting of him in pass protection."
Make no mistake, Duke Johnson will have a big role, if healthy. The Browns reportedly want him to be very involved, even take over the backfield. But he's already dealing with multiple injuries, so this will more likely be a 1-2 punch type of a backfield with Crowell handling most of the rushing duties and Johnson coming in as the change-of-pace/3rd-down back.