Is Isaiah Crowell taking it easy in order to get a rich free agent contract next season? That thought has been voiced in our friendly "Browns Bloggers and Friends" group (look me up on Facebook if you want to get added). Certainly Isaiah's numbers are down after a very impressive 2016 campaign in which he gained almost 1000 yards despite playing behind an underperforming offensive line.
Currently, he is ranked #47 by Pro Football Focus. Remembering there are 32 teams in the NFL, that means he is about average for a second string running back.
Okay, you see where I'm going with this. There will not be a big payday waiting for a guy who performs at the second string level. Maybe a million dollars, or twice the NFL minimum. But nothing big, nothing unaffordable should the Browns decide to keep him. They may not need him as they have Duke Johnson (ranked 14th in the NFL, which is rather good) plus a flock of 2018 draft picks. Rookie running backs are usually pretty good, unlike rookie quarterbacks. So if Crowell wants a big free agent contract he's lost most of his value as of Game 5 in the 2017 season.
My take is that the Browns have a dysfunctional offense. Coach Jackson's skill at installing an offense and running it in Cincinnati have not translated to success in Cleveland. My hope is that Coach Jackson replaces himself as Offensive Coordinator by hiring someone who is really good at it. Anyway, for whatever reason, Coach talked himself into believing that DeShone Kizer would be an NFL quarterback from Game 1, even though it was clear to everyone that this was not true.
In addition, the Browns have the worst group of wide receivers in the league, especially with Corey Coleman out. On the other hands, Duke Johnson (often in the slot) and the tight ends are pretty good. So what I think is that there has never been a need to play a seven man front all year long. Opposing Defensive Coordinators are stacking the line, focusing on the run game and short passing game to Duke, DeValve and Njoku. They could care less about the likes of Hollywood Higgins and Ricardo Louis. "We're playing an eight man front, kid. See if you can beat it." This never happened as Kizer was only able to complete a few passes each game to wide receivers.
I think with Kevin Hogan, it might be more balanced. There may be a few seven and six man fronts, which will be a bit easier for Crowell to run through. Hence I suspect he will put up some better numbers now.