Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns struggling on the ground
Monday, October 22, 2012 10:19 PM
BEREA - This is not what was supposed to happen when the Browns bundled three late draft picks plus the fourth overall pick so they could move up one slot to draft Trent Richardson.
After seven games, the rookie from Alabama is averaging 3.4 yards on 103 carries for 348 yards. That ranks 46th among NFL leading rushers with a minimum of 34 carries. He has converted six of 15 situations on runs of one or two yards for first downs.
The Browns rank 30th in the NFL rushing. On Sunday they used 17 rushing plays to gain 55 yards against the Colts. One week earlier the Jets rushed for 252 yards against Indianapolis.
"I think we can be an effective team running the football," Coach Pat Shurmur said Monday. "We need to do a better job of doing it. That's it. Call better plays, block better, run better, that's it. I wish I could give you some theorem that makes it happen that way, but we just need to do it."
Richardson was pulled Sunday after gaining only eight yards on eight carries in the first half against the Colts. Shurmur was asked Monday whether he pulled Richardson because of the rib injury the rookie sustained against the Bengals on Oct. 14.
"Trent's a warrior and Trent wanted to play that whole game," Shurmur said. "We were watching him play and felt like he wasn't at his best. He was fighting through a rib injury."
After the game Richardson did not get specific about his injury. He said he wanted to continue playing but also said Shurmur made the right decision.
"I'm not myself out there right now," Richardson said. "You look at me; I guess I'm not running hard like I'm used to so I'm not out there right now. So it is worse than what people think it is."
The Browns have used 145 rushing plays and 283 pass plays, including sacks as pass plays. The ratio of nearly two pass plays for every running play is far greater than the league average of 58 percent pass-42 percent run.
The Browns are usually playing from behind, so that is an obvious reason why they pass more. On Sunday, with Richardson out of the game and the Browns never behind by more than four points, Shurmur called only six running plays in the second half - two in the third quarter and four in the fourth - and 22 pass plays. Montario Hardesty rushed for nine yards and six yards on two separate runs in the fourth quarter.
"Every week, you want to run the ball first, especially offensive linemen; we love running the ball," left guard John Greco said Monday. "But when it's not working or we're getting open on the routes more, we're going to be more pass oriented.
"Speaking from our room, that's all we can do. If we're asked to pass block, we do that. If we're asked to run block, we do the best we can."
The Browns average 3.8 yards a carry. Eight teams average less a carry. Excluding the game in Cincinnati, in which Richardson rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries and the Browns averaged 5.7 yards a try, the team rushing average dips below 3.5. That puts them at the bottom of the league.
One theory attributes problems to Richardson missing all preseason recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. His knee might be fine, now, but he missed valuable opportunity to get his timing down.
Another theory is the holes are not there. But after Richardson was pulled from the second Cincinnati game because of the rib injury (37 yards on 14 carries), Hardesty darted through the holes and gained 56 yards on 15 carries.
"I wouldn't point to any trends right now," Shurmur said. "There were some things happening in the run game and some of what I saw in the passing game (Sunday) that were inefficient that were not Trent's fault."
Greco said what offensive linemen often do when the offense struggles; it's just one player not carrying out his assignment and that bogs down everything. Also, it is not the same player making the same mistake each time. But he also conceded rarely does any team do everything right, yet good teams find ways to move the ball despite the mistake.
"Trent has obviously proven himself," Greco said. "You work on timing in the summer. Right now it's about reading and reacting with looking at the defense and what they're giving us and blocking up the right looks."
Shurmur said he might give Richardson some time off. The Browns host the Chargers on Sunday and the Ravens on Nov. 4. They have their bye Nov. 11.
"We try to make decisions based on what's best," Shurmur said. "He's going to be a great player around here for a very long time.
"He wanted to be in the game. I think that's important for everybody to know. When I look at it, I want to make sure that we consider him, his health and everything as we move forward."