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Cleveland Browns Need to Give Edwin Baker More Carries in Final Two Games
With their loss on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, the Cleveland Browns were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs after dropping to 4-10 on the season. Now that the playoffs are officially out of the question, the team will be approaching the final two games of the year in full on evaluation mode of the roster for next season.
While there were mostly negatives that came out of blowing yet another game in the fourth quarter, there was a glimmer of hope and promise from a player signed off the Houston Texans practice squad last week. That player was former Michigan State running back, Edwin Baker.
Prior to the game I wrote that Baker could be in line for some carries with Willis McGahee out with a concussion on Sunday. But after seeing his first ever NFL game performance, the Browns would be better served letting Baker start and get the bulk of the carries for the rest of the season.
The former Spartan carried the ball eight times on the day for 38 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also proved to be multi-dimensional out of the backfield, catching four passes for 46 yards, including a reception of 16 yards. While not utilized much as a pass catcher out of the backfield during his collegiate days, Baker looked comfortable running routes, catching the ball in space and getting his body turned around quickly when quarterback Jason Campbell was being blitzed—all major requirements of a running back in Norv Turner’s offensive system.
Per the usual play calling for Browns running backs, the offensive staff dialed up just 17 total running plays on the day—with three of them being one scramble from Campbell and two wildcat plays. Despite the light load in a pass-happy offense, Baker’s determination to keep his legs churning and fight for extra yards stood out among all other things on the day.
My scouting report and film study from his days at Michigan State painted the picture of a running back that never stops fighting for extra yards, hits the hole with power and explosiveness and the type of guy who doesn’t take long to make a decision, as he is a one-cut and go type of back. All of those assessments looked dead on in his first action in the NFL, as Baker ran with attitude and purpose every time he touched the ball.
For those reasons alone, the youngster deserves more carries over the next two games. Add in the fact that the Browns have no long-term options at the running back position on the roster—nobody knows what you are going to get from Dion Lewis when he comes back from injury—and that should provide head coach Rob Chudzinski with even more motivation to dial up a few more running plays against the New York Jets on Sunday.
McGahee has been nothing more than a fill-in out there all season, as he has huffed and puffed his way to 377 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games this season. At the age of 32, it is likely McGahee is finally out of gas—so why not give the youngster the ball and see what he can do?
Giving Baker a full audition over the final two games of the season doesn’t just make sense, it is a win-win situation for the franchise. If he can prove to be more than just a one game anomaly, it will give the Browns front office yet another option to mix in with any potential free agents or draft picks they bring in. And in the worst case scenario, it gives Browns fans someone to watch and root for over the final two games of the season when a number of other players seemingly have already packed their backs for winter vacation.
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