Late last week, the Cleveland Browns made two transactions that surprised many in the football community—claiming former Seattle Seahawks running back Robert Turbin off waivers and cutting wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to make room for him on the roster.
After trading second-year back Terrance West, it was obvious the Browns needed to add a running back to the mix, but many expected it would be one that could play in Week 1—not a back with an injured ankle. On top of that, cutting Pryor to make room for him really set Browns fans on social media on fire, as many were expecting the project of Pryor’s switch from quarterback to wide receiver to be a chance to add a playmaker to the team’s offense.
Lost in all of this was the fact that the Browns added a pretty good running back to their roster in Turbin, even if they have to wait two to four more weeks for him. At just 25-years old, there is very little wear on the tires of the man called “Turbo” by many close to him, as he rushed the ball just 231 times for 928 yards during his first three seasons with Seattle. He was an asset as a receiver and pass protector on third downs as well, catching 43 passes for 427 yards and two touchdowns over those three seasons.
Maybe it was because Pryor was cut for him, but many fans were unhappy with the addition of Turbin to the roster—likely because of the fact he is out with a high ankle sprain. However, when you get to know more about him there is a chance the Browns got a major steal off the waiver wires in the former Utah State back.
First off, when you look at his collegiate stats he was a highly productive back over the course of his career, racking up 3,315 yards and 40 touchdowns on 565 carries. He was also very good as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 67 passes for 845 yards and 11 touchdowns. What is even more impressive is the fact that he bounced back from a torn ACL in 2010 to rush for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2011 before leaving school for the NFL Draft.
A pre-draft scouting report on NFL.com described Turbin as, “…Has the size to be a thumper inside, but moves more like a shifty, quick back. Has very quick feet that he employs to stop and start instantaneously out of the backfield. Has a big frame that gets to full speed fast. A classic downhill runner who can run through linebackers and carry the pile. Was a threat throughout his career in the pass game. Has the speed, athleticism, and durability to wear down an NFL defense for an entire game.”
At 5’10” and 222 pounds, Turbin was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately for Turbin, he was drafted by a team with one of the best running backs in the NFL with a firm grasp on the starting job in Marshawn Lynch. With Lynch’s dependability to carry the ball 25-plus times per game, the opportunities just were not there for Turbin during his time there.
When Turbin was waived/injured last week, it was certainly a shocker to many people—including Browns head coach, Mike Pettine. When asked about claiming him, Pettine said, “To me, the timing of it for us was we knew that there were other teams interested and that being where we were in the claiming order. We could have let him potentially clear and then try to recruit him and sign him or let him on his own but you’re competing with 30 other teams essentially for that. We think enough of him that that wasn’t something that we were willing to risk, that ‘hey, we have a chance to get him here, let’s get him here.”
Pettine went on to describe the type of player Turbin is by saying, “He’s downhill. When you watch him play he is physical. You talk about playing with an attitude, that’s the way he is. When you go down the list of attributes what we’re looking for in a running back, and then also just the bonus part of it is the person that we’re bringing to the room – nothing but positive opinions on how he is in the locker room, in the meeting room, on the practice field – it was just a move that we felt was best for us.”
Even though the information on Turbin conveyed by Pettine was great, I decided to reach out to his former running backs coach at Utah State, Ilaisa Tuiaki, to learn a little bit more about the player he coached in college. Now coaching linebackers for Oregon State, Tuiaki provided some solid information about Turbin in the interview below.
Q: Robert didn’t get a lot of opportunities in Seattle behind Lynch, what does he bring to the Cleveland Browns?
Tuiaki: “Turbo worked hard as a player. He is capable to run the ball as well as catch out of the backfield.”
Q: If you could describe Robert’s running style, how would you describe it?
Tuiaki: “Turbo has the capability to be a multiple style runner. He could run (through them) but as well run around people.”
Q: The Browns have an offensive coordinator who likes to throw to backs out of the backfield, how are Robert’s catching abilities?
Tuiaki: “Turbo is a great back out of the backfield. He can run routes as well as line up at the wide out spot and catch. That might be one of the stronger suites he has in comparison to other backs in the NFL.”
Q: How would you describe Robert’s work ethic both on and off the field?
Tuiaki: “I haven’t talked to Turb for a long time but when I had him in college, he was all business and a hard worker. He never complained and wanted everything that made him THE MAN. The year he tore his ACL, I remember him showing up every morning for extra rehab work and when he was a player, he showed up earlier than others to jump in the ice tub to keep himself fresh. If he works the same, he’ll do well.”
If you look at the comments from both Tuiaki and Pettine it seems there is a common theme with Turbin—he is a versatile back with an excellent work ethic. Pettine specifically called out how great he is going to be for the locker room as well—one of the rumored main reasons the team shipped out West for a conditional pick from the Tennessee Titans. Also, with the ability to line up as a receiver, as noted by Tuiaki, the Browns will be able to seamlessly work Turbin and rookie Duke Johnson into the lineup behind current starter Isaiah Crowell without missing a beat.
After the team’s loss on Sunday and stagnant rushing attack, many people will not be very happy having to wait a few more weeks for Turbin. But if they can have a little patience, the addition of Turbin could end up paying off in a big way—both on and off the field.