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Duke Johnson & Isaiah Crowell better than Giovani Bernard & Jeremy Hill? Hue Jackson hints at it

Former Bengals’ offensive coordinator Hue Jackson recently declared that the duo of Crowell and Johnson are as good as he has seen “in a while” - do you agree?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

As surprising as it was to see the Browns draft five wide receivers, it was perhaps equally surprising that they used none of their 14 draft picks on the running back position. Given the state of the Browns running backs, many assumed at least one of those picks would have been used to address the backfield.

To say the Browns running backs struggled last year would be a polite way of saying they were really bad. As a group, the Browns running backs only ran for a total of four rushing touchdowns and sloughed out a 3.7 yards per carry average. And this was when they still had Alex Mack at center and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle, both of whom have since left as free agents.

Consider that last year the Browns lead rusher, Crowell, had one very good game when he cranked out 145 yards and two touchdowns against a gutted 49ers defense. Outside of that one game, Crowell only managed 3.4 yards per carry, and two touchdowns throughout the rest of the season.

The Browns’ second back in their committee, Duke Johnson, didn’t fare any better as a runner, although he did catch the ball 61 times for 534 yards. Of course, one could argue that his receiving numbers were inflated due to check downs and dump offs since the Browns were devoid of enough NFL level wide receivers, or an NFL level quarterback, to string together a competent passing game that went beyond the line of scrimmage.

Despite the state of the Browns running game last season, former Bengals offensive coordinator and current Browns head coach Hue Jackson declared in an interview aired on 92.3FM, "Those two guys are as good as I’ve seen in a while. Their talent is extreme."

If Jackson was just looking to explain away why the Browns did not draft any running backs, or try to instill some confidence amongst the fans that the running backs he inherited were not terrible, he could have said they are good. He could have even said their talent is extreme. But Jackson took it a step further when he added "as I’ve seen in a while."

You typically don’t say "This is the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve had in a while." It was as good as the one you just had. With this in mind, Jackson seems to be implying that the duo of Crowell and Johnson are better than the duo he just recently worked with – Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard of the Bengals.

Considering that Bernard has averaged over 1,100 yards from scrimmage as a Bengal with 17 total touchdowns, and Hill is averaging just under 1,000 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns per year, not to mention both carry a career 4.3 yards per carry average, this seems like a slight, or a parting jab at Hill and Bernard by their former coach.

If Hue thinks that Crowell and Johnson are the best he has seen "in a while", which tandem of running backs does he think is the best he had seen before them? Clearly the answer is not Hill and Bernard, so who does Hue love? Let’s look at his stops before Cleveland...

2012~2013 Bengals

Before Hill and Bernard, Jackson was in Cincinnati when the Bengals were rolling out BenJarvus Green-Ellis. It’s doubtful any duo involving the law firm as the lead back would be in the running.

2010~2011 Raiders

The Raiders had Darren McFadden, who was oozing with talent, and ripped off an impressive 5.3 yards per carry average while Hue was there, but was rarely healthy enough to put that into a full year of production. Those teams also features Michael Bush who was good at pounding out the short yardage.

2008~2009 Ravens

The Ravens had a duo of Willis McGahee and Ray Rice in 2009, who both averaged five yards a carry, and scored 19 rushing touchdowns. That was the year Rice made the Pro-Bowl and recorded over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. The previous year, the Ravens had McGahee and Le’Ron McClain, who scored 17 touchdowns, but failed to generate much yardage.

2004~2006 Bengals

Rudi Johnson had his best years during this stretch, but as far as a duo goes, it was pretty much a one horse show in those days. Kenny Watson never reached 200 yards rushing during that span, and the only other candidate was Chris Perry.

2001~2003 Redskins

Stephen Davis had a very good season in 2001, but outside of that, the duos featured Trung Candidate, Rock Cartwright, Kenny Watson, and Ki-Jana Carter. Any tandem featuring Candidate or Carter doesn’t seem to be in the running.


So what do you think, are Crowell & Johnson better than Hill & Bernard, as Hue seems to be implying? How would you rank Hill and Bernard compared to the other sets of running backs who have played on teams when Jacks was coaching?