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Can Ben Tate, a man torn, still get what he wants?

11/12/2014

BEREA, Ohio -- When a player expresses frustration in a locker room, a scene-setter is always important. It’s important with Browns running back Ben Tate, who made clear he was frustrated with the three-running back setup Cleveland currently employs, but I didn’t feel that he blasted the team.

There’s a necessary distinction. Tate essentially said the Browns are winning and all is good, he just didn’t get what he signed up for in free agency -- a heavier workload. He was salty but didn't go full salty. He was asked if he was satisfied with the rotation, he said he’d be lying if he said yes. That’s pretty clear and honest. He was at his locker, reporters started asking him questions and he didn’t dodge them. He didn’t make any demands. He acknowledges rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell are improving.

To me, Tate sounded like a man torn between wanting to win and wanting the ball. That's a big club.

But he must know this deep down -- with the good vibes flowing in the Browns’ locker room after a 6-3 start, there’s not much time to cater to individuals.

That’s why the next few weeks are crucial for Tate to capitalize on the carries he feels he deserves and highlight a role as a dual threat: a tailback and a receiver.

Sure, Tate’s carries have been cut in half (averaged 19.5 carries from Weeks 5-8 and 10 carries in Weeks 9-10), but notice his six catches for 56 yards the last two weeks. Receiving out of the backfield is something the Browns hadn’t utilized much in the first half but are now starting to. Tate can add value by continuing to get open for dump-offs and easy yardage. He’s the Browns’ most reliable pass-catching back.

A few catches plus at least 10 carries a game isn’t a bad gig. Plus, if Tate can get hot on occasion, the Browns can ride him.

The Browns know Tate is reliable. But he could really use a home-run carry to help fend off the rookies. He has one carry of more than 18 yards and none of more than 25. The downfield threat isn't there.

Break a few runs, catch some passes, don’t fumble and you might still get what you want by December. Though West and Crowell might have something to say about that, too.