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Cleveland Browns Lack of Commitment to the Run with Trent Richardson a Major Concern
The Cleveland Browns headed into the 2013 with a sense of rejuvenation surrounding their NFL franchise. With a revamped coaching staff, new offense and a new defense, many people felt this was going to be the year the team finally got over their losing hump.
Instead, fans and media pundits left the team’s 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins shaking their heads, wondering what exactly has changed from 2012 to 2013. It may be entirely too early to judge the team, and certainly way too early to judge the direction of the team’s gameplan, but if game one against the Dolphins is any indicator—it is going to be a long season once again for the fans.
The game against the Dolphins wasn’t pretty from the get go, but at least it looked like the Browns were going to give Miami a heavy dose of Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Browns opened the game with a nine-yard rush by Richardson and followed it up with a five-yard rush for a first down. Three plays later, Richardson ripped off another 10-yard rush for a first down and followed it up with another rush for two yards before two Brandon Weeden passes and a punt for the offense.
For those of you keeping track, Richardson rushed the ball four times on the team’s opening drive for 26 yards—yet he finished the day with just 13 rushes for 47 yards according to the play-by-play on ESPN. Let’s take that in for a second, the Browns gave the ball to their star running back just nine more times over the course of around 49 more minutes in the game, instead, opting to allow Weeden and their Josh Gordon-less passing attack to throw the ball 53 times in a game they were not down by two scores in until just under the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
With all due respect to the coaching staff, the Dolphins didn’t exactly have one of the league’s best rush defenses last season. Miami finished at No. 13 in the league, giving up 108.4 yards per game (4.0 average per rush) and 10 touchdowns on the ground last year. After coaching a team that finished No. 9 in the league last year in rush offense in Carolina, one would expect Rob Chudzinski to have more of a commitment to the run in his debut game as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
In a post-game interview, Chudzinski stated the team was “trying to keep Richardson fresh” by not having him out there on certain downs. After carrying the ball 267 times in 15 games as a rookie for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, one has to wonder what exactly Chud is talking a about. Despite being injured last year, Richardson still carried the ball just under 18 times per game in 2012, and is certainly in much better shape injury wise than a year ago. If you cannot run your star running back more than 13 times per game in the season opener, when are you going to rush him 20 times per game?
If the lack of commitment to the run overall wasn’t a concern for you yet, take a look at this statistic. Richardson received zero carries when the Browns were inside the Miami 40-yard line on Sunday. The closest he came was on the team’s lone touchdown drive before halftime, receiving a carry from the 41-yard line in which he was hit for a one-yard loss. The rest of that drive, which ended in a touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron, was all passing from Weeden. In fact, the Browns rushed the ball just two times total in that 48-yard, 11 play drive.
As a whole, this game against the Miami Dolphins was a major disappointment to a recommitted fan base ready for a winner. But the lack of commitment to the run game should certainly have fans questioning what is in store for the rest of the 2013 season—especially with trips to Baltimore and Minnesota on deck before returning home against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4.
With the understanding that this front office did not draft Richardson, you cannot ignore the fact that you have a running back with the talent to be a Top 10 rusher in the NFL who can impact both the pass and run game. If this trend of not utilizing Richardson continues, the fans and media alike will not waste time calling for Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s firings in the near future.
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