Trent Richardson Is the Key to the Cleveland Browns' Offense, Not Brandon Weeden
Much of the attention surrounding the Cleveland Browns this offseason has been paid to the quarterback battle between Colt McCoy and controversial first-round pick Brandon Weeden. However, it is the play of third overall draft choice Trent Richardson that will determine the success of the Cleveland offense.
The former Crimson Tide star can finally give the Browns the dynamic, big-play running game they need to compete in the rugged AFC North. As much as they need to answer the dilemma under center, the Browns need Richardson to quickly emerge as a dependable workhorse.
Mike Holmgren may be trying to move the Browns towards the type of offensive model that yielded so much success with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. However, the fact remains that even if the quarterback issue is solved, the Browns still lack sure-handed wideouts capable of making plays after the catch.
Although they have some credible options at tight end, there's no Brent Jones, Mark Chmura or Keith Jackson-type to help make Holmgren's version of the West Coast offense work. That means that whoever is calling signals this season will have to rely on Richardson for the lion's share of the production.
Richardson's three-down capabilities make that possible. His ability to run with discipline and a brand of deceptive speed, natural power and fluidity make Richardson the kind of back who can be trusted to handle the ball 25 or more times a game.
With second-year head coach Pat Shurmur directing the offense, Richardson is sure to see plenty of action. As offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams in 2010, Shurmur protected rookie quarterback Sam Bradford by designing an attack tailored to running back Steven Jackson.
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That year, Jackson was second in the NFL with 330 rush attempts and second in carries per game with 20.6. And that was with a quarterback more highly-touted and with less question marks than Weeden.
Play-calling that heavily features Richardson also makes the most sense for the Browns' burgeoning defense. The unit made great strides in the first year of their conversion to a 4-3 front.
However, while they were stellar against the pass, Cleveland's D was consistently soft against the rush. The Browns attack needs to control the clock and force opposing offenses away from the run and make them take their chances against a dangerous secondary.
It may not produce a more exciting or even prolific offense, but letting Richardson carry the load makes the most sense for the talent that the Browns possess on both sides of the ball.
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