After a relatively quiet first week of training camp, the injury bug is starting to bite in Cleveland. The likes of Jermone Ford, Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas have all gone down ahead of the first official week of the preseason, creating some early holes on the depth chart.
The Ford injury is the most pressing for the Browns considering the expectations on him for the 2023 campaign. With Kareem Hunt departing, Ford is slated to become the No. 2 RB, taking on the important role of being Nick Chubb's backup.
Ford's new hamstring injury will unfortunately cause the running back to miss important preseason reps. However, there is one sneaky silver lining to the whole situation.
As Daryl Ruiter of The FAN points out, Ford being sidelined means the players vying for RB3 will be afforded more reps in practice. This actually does Cleveland a big favor considering that race is undecided right now.
After all, the team already knows what kind of playmaking Ford is capable of. He was the Browns' starting kick returner in 2022, racking up 723 yards on kickoffs, which included a long of 48 yards. The front office also opting to not bring in any veteran competition for the RB2 role shows strong confidence in his ability to step up.
Meanwhile, the No. 3 spot on the running back depth chart is completely up in the air right now. Two holdovers in Demetric Felton and John Kelly are currenly entrenched in a fierce battle for this job, while undrafted rookie Hassan Hall is in the mix as well.
We've seen Felton and Kelly garner limited snaps over the past two seasons for the Browns, so it's important Cleveland takes this time to figure out which man is best for the job. Felton is actually a converted wide receiver who has a smaller build (5-foot-9, 189 pounds), while Kelly presents a bigger-bodied back (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) who may fit this Chubb-centered system better.
With Ford considered week-to-week, the lower-profile RB3 competition suddenly gets thrust into the spotlight. Felton, Kelly and Ford will get the chance to see more reps with players higher up on the depth chart at their respective positions, allowing the coaching staff to truly evaluate their potential to contribute in case their number is ever called.
The nature of resting starters in preseason also means Felton, Kelly and Hall should get a ton of run during the team's upcoming exhibitions as long as Ford is out. This provides Kevin Stefanski and co. valuable film to measure these RBs against one another and see how their talents translate to a real game.
This is a massive opportunity for this trio, especially given how much Cleveland puts an emphasis on its ground attack. Hopefully one of these tree players seizes the opportunity in front of them. Otherwise, the team may be forced to considering bringing in an outside option to solidify its depth.
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