CLEVELAND- The Browns came into pre-season looking team that was determined to score points by their physical ground assault.
However, the Browns pre-season loss to Washington gave the Cleveland faithful more questions than answers. In all fairness, part of the problem could have the substitions on the offensive line. The Browns usually stout rushing attack usually depends on Joe Thomas and Alex Mack being active in the run blocking scheme. The Pro-Bowl offensive lineman were not active last Thursday.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is willing to give Ray Rice a second chance. However, the Browns still want to see if Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and Duke Johnson can carry the load. They want to develop their young core of running backs before commiting to free agents.
The second pre-season game against Buffalo will be aired on ESPN. This game will likely decide the fate of Ray Rice. If the Browns start Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, Crowell should be able to find gaping holes to run through. If he struggles to perform with the national audience watching, the Browns may have to start their negotiations with Rice very soon.
If Crowell is motivated and flourishes on the national stage the Browns may be able to start him against the Jets for the season opener instead of turning to Rice.