After most Browns’ losses, we bemoan the inability of the team to run the ball and defense the opponents’ running game.
That is usually a recipe for defeats, even in today’s pass happy NFL.
That’s why it is time for coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress to get more touches for RB Trent Richardson.
The third overall draft pick last spring, the rookie from Alabama gives the teams playing the Browns someone to account for when Cleveland has the ball.
After Richardson’s game against Cincinnati, in which he ran for 109 yards in 19 carries, the defensive coordinators in the Browns’ last two games (vs. Buffalo and Baltimore) have put eight men in the box, daring Brandon Weeden to throw the football.
That has led to the rookie quarterback throwing the football an average of 40 times per game, a total far too high for a player getting his first NFL experience.
It is time to give Richardson more of a load for several reasons. Right now, he’s averaging a little less than 20 touches per game. That number needs to get closer to 30.
And it doesn’t have to be 30 runs, it can be 24 carries and catching six passes out of the backfield, getting T-Rich in space.
First, he’s the best skill player the Browns have. With the receivers dropping Weeden’s throws at an alarming rate (a continuation of last season’s problems for Colt McCoy), getting the ball to your biggest weapon needs to be a priority.
Second, the life of an NFL running back is around four seasons.
True, some guys last longer than that, and can remain effective for up to seven or eight seasons, but for the most part, Richardson will have about five years of playing at a very high level, and the Browns should take advantage of using him before the rigors of the NFL take a toll on him.
Naysayers might say it is dumb to run into eight and nine man fronts, and by and large that is true.
However, it is still a matter of execution. If every team thought like that, then running backs like Arien Foster, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore, just to name a few, would be obsolete.
Shurmur and Childress shouldn’t bang their collective heads against a brick wall, but they can’t forget about getting the ball in the biggest weapon’s hands.
If an opponent stacks that line of scrimmage to stop the run, that doesn’t mean your quarterback should be throwing 45-50 passes per game.
And even if you aren’t handing off to the rookie, you can still get him the ball in space by throwing it to him out of the backfield.
This much is clear, the offense shouldn’t ignore him.
In fact, after four games, it’s time for Shurmur and Childress to know who can make plays (and who can’t) and try to get the ball in those players hands as much as possible.
That requires creativity on the coach’s part and that may just be the rub.
Let’s face it, the Cleveland offense may not be vanilla, but it certainly isn’t rocky road either. It tends to be a bit predictable.
This is an area that needs improvement, and it starts by getting the ball in the hands of Trent Richardson more often.