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An article was posted Tuesday on SB Nation's Houston Texans blog, Battle Red Blog, detailing how Trent Richardson was actually a beast in 2013. The author, Brett Kollmann, brings up several interesting points, but unfortunately they're all things that have been debunked before.
A quick rundown.
Kollmann says that you can't compare Richardson to Donald Brown because Richardson was a "workhorse" back compared to a complementary back.
When Brown was asked to handle bigger loads, his raw numbers suffered just as much as Richardson due to Indy’s terrible offensive line. Nobody in that backfield was safe. Nobody.
This is a common thought among Richardson apologists, but it's not true. It was early in the season, but the roles quickly switched as Richardson struggled. Both backs had seven games with 10 or more carries. Five of Richardson's came in his first five games in Indianapolis. The other two came in double-digit wins over Houston and Kansas City late in the season. In said games, Richardson averaged 3.05 yards per carry, Brown averaged 4.33.
But, wait, that could be because Brown was coming in late in games where the Colts were behind as a scatback and getting carries against dime defenses!
Nope. Brown received 33 first-quarter carries in 2013 (32 percent of his carries), compared to 41 for Richardson (26%). Brown gained 160 yards on those plays (4.85 yards per carry), Richardson gained 83 (2.02).
Early in the season, sure, Brown was getting more complementary looks. But as the season wore on, Brown was the No. 1 back. That's why he had 33 touches for 168 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs, while Richardson had four carries for one yard.
Kollmann uses GIFs and play diagrams to illustrate the offensive line's failings, while showing Richardson's tackle-breaking ability.
Again, this isn't new information. We knew the Colts line was bad, and we knew Richardson was a strong back who excelled at breaking tackles. But Brown saw his fair share of defenders as well. Brown actually had a higher percentage of broken or missed tackles (22 on 102 rushes, 21.6 percent, vs. 31 on 157 rushes, 19.7 percent).
It's easy to find bad plays by the offensive line in 2013. But showing a lowlight reel of the offensive line and the highlights of Richardson's tackle-breaking ability doesn't explain why every other back was able to find success, from Brown to Ahmad Bradshaw to Vick Ballard.
Richardson did a great job of breaking tackles in 2013, but he didn't do a good job of anticipating his linemen's movements well and timing his burst through holes, leaving countless extra yards on the field.
The deck was stacked against Richardson, to some extent, last season. He came into a new playbook, in a new city, behind a poor offensive line for an offensive coordinator who was less than intuitive in his usage of the running back. But pretending like Richardson played well last season isn't helping anybody.
Fortunately, that doesn't mean he will never play well. Richardson showed fantastic physical ability, namely his strength, balance and agility. Those physical traits are what give scouts hope for a player like him. If he can put together the more instinctual factors, which come with experience (compare Brown's 2011-2013 to his 2009 and 2010 seasons, for example), he can still be a productive player in the NFL. His ceiling is still higher than the vast majority of backs in the league.
Will he make progress toward that ceiling in 2014? I think he will, but it's not because of revisionist history regarding last season.