What the Cleveland Browns Should Expect from RB Trent Richardson in 2012

Andrea HangstFeatured Columnist IVMay 2, 2012

This was the easy part for Trent Richardson; now the hard work begins.
This was the easy part for Trent Richardson; now the hard work begins.Al Bello/Getty Images

Of any member of the Cleveland Browns' rookie class (save perhaps quarterback Brandon Weeden), Trent Richardson is poised to make the biggest impact in 2012.

The bruising, talented running back was selected by Cleveland third overall, so the expectations are clearly high for him to help change the face of what has been a struggling offense of late.

It's true that one man does not an offense make, but Richardson has a chance to single-handedly change the Browns offense as we know it. There's a reason why a running back—or any player, for that matter—is selected No. 3 overall, and that's to be a centerpiece of the team's short and long-term plans.

That's clearly what Richardson is going to be.

In 2011, Richardson took over the starting running back role for Alabama after Mark Ingram left for the NFL and immediately proved he's quite the weapon.

In fact, "quite the weapon" is an understatement. In his final season, Richardson had 283 carries for 1,679 yards and a mind-blowing 21 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry in the defense-heavy SEC. He also added 29 receptions for 338 yards and three scores.

No rookie RB has had as high, or as well-deserved expectations as Richardson since Adrian Peterson
No rookie RB has had as high, or as well-deserved expectations as Richardson since Adrian PetersonButch Dill/Getty Images

Now, high-production running backs aren't uncommon in college football, and rarely does that success translate to 1,600 or 1,800 yards on the ground in their rookie NFL season, but if any first-year back has a chance to continue that collegiate success on the professional stage, it's Richardson.

Richardson is the kind of running back that doesn't come around all that often. Tough, durable, able to get yards when other backs would fall, the way he plays the game could carry over to the rest of his Browns teammates, potentially making for an overall mental strengthening of the offense.

The most important stat about Richardson for the Browns are those touchdowns and his nearly six yards per carry average. Touchdowns were clearly elusive for Cleveland last year—they had just 20 rushing and receiving scores combined, one fewer than what Richardson scored on his own in 2011. 

Only four of those 20 scores came from the run game, and they were near the bottom of the league in average rushing yards per game with 95.7. Clearly, Richardson is an upgrade in that area of the game without even taking the field.

Sure, the Browns' offensive line deserves a share of the blame for why their run game stalled out last season, but even if those issues aren't entirely cleared up in 2012, Richardson still should have a solid first year.

Richardson of course benefits from a good blocking offensive line, but he's also the kind of back who can make holes for himself and crash through defenders. He's exceptional at making tacklers miss, and those who do get to him find him notably difficult to bring down.

Any other running back may go down, but Richardson here goes on to score a touchdown
Any other running back may go down, but Richardson here goes on to score a touchdownKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A one-man wrecking crew on the ground will make passing the ball that much easier—opponents are surely going to be worried about Richardson more than any other player—and Richardson can help in that area as well, both as an effective and willing pass protector and as a receiving weapon.

If there was one thing the Browns needed from this draft, it was a real shot in the arm on offense. Richardson's presence represents a new degree of hope. He's the kind of talent a team and a game plan can be built around, and he should change the complexion of how the Browns approach games.

Richardson is set to have just as much a positive psychological impact on the Browns' locker room as he's likely to have on the field. There's no price too high to pay to get a player of that talent, especially for one who needed him as badly as the Browns.

Twenty-one touchdowns may be asking a lot, but Richardson is sure to score his fair share of six-pointers. That alone means that Cleveland should field a much improved squad come September; if they use Richardson as the centerpiece of their offense, the Browns could find themselves with one of the most effective ground-and-pound offenses in the league.