Trent Richardson Will Break out in Week 4 with Ahmad Bradshaw on the Shelf

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2013

September 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson (34) looks on during warm ups before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Trent Richardson provided modest production last week in his first game as an Indianapolis Colt, but with an easy matchup and a clear path to playing time in front of him, Week 4 will represent Richardson's coming-out party in blue and white.

The trade of Richardson from the Cleveland Browns to the Colts sent shock waves through the football world last week as it seemingly came out of left field. Richardson was the No. 3-overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft, and most figured that he was the main piece Cleveland would build around moving forward.

With a new regime in place, however, the Browns made a stunning move. Indy jumped at the chance to acquire the former Alabama star for a first-round pick in 2014. Richardson gained just 35 yards on 13 carries last week against a stout San Francisco 49ers defense, although he did score his first touchdown of the season after finding pay dirt 12 times as a rookie.

The main thing standing in Richardson's way last week was fellow running back Ahmad Bradshaw as he gashed the Niners to the tune of 95 yards, a yards-per-carry average of five and a touchdown of his own. Bradshaw could have conceivably been a thorn in Richardson's side all season long in terms of production, but that won't be the case in Week 4.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Bradshaw suffered a neck injury last week against San Fran that will keep him out of Sunday's contest against the downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars.

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While that obviously isn't great for the Colts depth, Richardson now has a golden opportunity to prove the Colts right. Bradshaw made a case for a timeshare at running back moving forward, but Richardson can put that to rest with a strong showing on Sunday.

There is definitely reason to wonder whether or not Richardson is the player everyone thought he was coming out of college. After all, he rushed for under 1,000 yards and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last season. He hasn't shown any explosion this season either, which means that it is entirely possible that he is little more than a plodder.

That school of thought will be put to the test on Sunday, as the Colts will take on a Jacksonville defense that ranks last in the league against the run. The Jags are allowing nearly 168 yards per game on the ground, and Indy clearly plans on establishing a power running game as the season progresses to take some pressure off the shoulders of quarterback Andrew Luck.

Playing the Jaguars should provide a huge confidence boost to Richardson. Not only is Jacksonville's run defense pathetic, it will be unable to stack the box as Luck can pick the Jags apart by throwing to weapons such as Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Coby Fleener. All of that points to a huge game for Richardson.

If Richardson isn't impressive on Sunday, Colts fans as well as those within the organization may start to question the trade. Richardson will be given every opportunity to succeed in Week 4 though, and it's hard to imagine him turning in a poor effort now that he is sufficiently motivated.

Assuming Bradshaw's neck injury isn't serious, he still figures to be a big part of the Colts offense moving forward. With that said, those responsible for the Richardson trade probably aren't too broken up about Bradshaw missing this week's game. Had Bradshaw played and produced yet again, it would have been very difficult for head coach Chuck Pagano to take him out.

The decision has suddenly been made for him, and he could be convinced to make Richardson the unquestioned starter if he plays well enough on Sunday. Richardson suddenly finds himself in an ideal situation, and he will use it to dominate on Sunday and establish himself as the Colts bell-cow back for the remainder of the season.

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