4 Lessons Cleveland Browns RB Trent Richardson Must Learn His Rookie Year
The four lessons Cleveland Browns’ rookie running back Trent Richardson must learn this year need to be learned quickly. An entire city is leaning on him to lead Cleveland out of its perennial dwelling place—the AFC North basement.
If he is able to learn these lessons before the season is through (and there is no reason he cannot), then the Browns offense will be a better, more efficient unit because of it.
The four lessons T-Rich must learn this season are on their way to you…now.
Lesson 1: Trust the West Coast Offense
If there is a model for what the West Coast offense is supposed to look like, it was the Mike Shanahan-led Denver Broncos of the late-1990s.
With Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway under center and running back Terrell Davis rumbling out of the backfield, they won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII with a run-first mentality that went against the trend of trigger-happy passing offenses of the time.
No running back in NFL history ran for more yards between the ages of 24 and 26 than Davis did. From 1996 to 1998, he carried the ball 1,106 times for 5,296 yards and 49 touchdowns—including 2,008 yards and a then-AFC record 21 rushing TDs in 1998.
He did that as a sixth-round pick. Of the others in the top-10, six of them were taken within the top nine picks of their respective draft year.
The point of that example is that Richardson can be great regardless of talent level or where he was drafted. He has both of those things going for him, but the offense in which he plays will be more important to his success than anything else. His talent will put him over the top.
I wrote in a recent article that Cleveland would air it out more down the field.
They will make that happen by first establishing the run; I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. Richardson has a lot riding on his broad shoulders, and trusting in what Coach Pat Shurmur calls is a good way to carry that load.
Lesson 2: Remember Where You Play
"A factory of sadness."
The city of Cleveland is in great need of a hero.
Their last, LeBron James, abandoned them for sunnier skies and a better chance at an NBA title.
That bitter taste has yet to leave the mouths of Cleveland’s finest, and they want nothing more than to be blessed with another hero to fall in love with.
The city has suffered through a title drought for 48 years. Not since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL Championship, has Cleveland celebrated a professional title.
It’s still early, and though there are many pieces yet to be placed, the Browns have what could be the centerpieces to a championship franchise. Hope is there, yes, but the title itself is in the distant future.
Richardson will be a great back for many years; building around him is a necessity.
A good defense and running game can carry a team farther than anyone imagined. A quick example of that is last year’s San Francisco 49ers. Who honestly expected a 13-3 record and a fumbled punt return return away from a Super Bowl appearance out of them? With their quarterback?
Other than 49ers fans, probably no one.
It can come from nowhere if the right pieces are in place. It seems the Browns organization is attempting to build on that model.
The defense is good enough to keep them in most games. Richardson is the titan which holds the rock that is their football world. He can help carry them to prominence.
The city of Cleveland will love him as long as he remembers it’s for them, not him.
Lesson 3: Remain Humble
Lewis breaks Mendenhall's shoulder.
Don Wright-US PRESSWIRE
The last rookie running back who challenged Ray Lewis was Rashard Mendenhall.
Do you remember how that worked out for him?
Here’s the video of that broken shoulder, in case you’ve forgotten.
"I’m not saying Ray Lewis won’t take me out, but I want to see him in the hole. I love Uncle Ray to death. But why would you stand down?"
Well, Trent, you’ll get your wish September 27 in front of a national audience on Thursday Night Football. Week 4 against Baltimore (8:20 PM, NFL Network) will be fierce, as AFC North games typically are. But this one will carry a bit of extra flare with it due to Richardson's statement.
You can bet the NFL Network crew will make it a talking point—anything to drive up the ratings.
Can you hear Warren Sapp explaining what “Uncle Ray” is going to do to the rookie? It kind of makes me sick already.
Richardson must learn to keep his mouth shut and just play football. With the reputation Cleveland has for being bottom-dwellers and Lewis’ propensity for extreme violence, it would be best for the rookie—and everyone in the Browns organization—to stray away from too much pregame trash talk.
At least until he’s earned the right to do so. Or until Uncle Ray hangs up the cleats.
Lesson 4: Be You
Cleveland drafted Richardson to be a shifty bowling ball.
That’s why he’s here. He is a perfect back for the West Coast offense.
They will ask him to do some things he’s not used to doing, like catching the ball out of the backfield on screens, but ultimately he will be most helpful to the team doing what he did to every defense throughout his brief starting career in the SEC.
And that is juking poor defensive backs and running over linebackers (maybe not Lewis).
The 5’9”, 230-pound rookie performed well against the best defenses in college football while at Alabama. AFC North defenses are to the NFL what the SEC’s defensive crews were to college ball—better than the rest.
If he realizes that he doesn’t need to change anything about the way he runs to be successful against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati, then he will help Cleveland begin to climb out of the cellar and into offensive relevance.