November 4, 2012
As long as he is with the Browns, Trent Richardson will give the Ravens fits twice a year.
When it was clear they would miss out on franchise-altering quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in April's NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns made sure that the other offensive game-changer they sought early in the draft wouldn't escape their grasp. The night before the draft, the Browns traded up one spot from the fourth overall pick to ensure that they could select Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who some draft analysts hailed as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. But his game is more similar to that of Ravens running back Ray Rice, which made it fitting that the two diminutive but powerful runners exchanged jerseys after the Ravens beat the Browns, 25-15, on Sunday.
And while Rice's role in the offensive game plan was one of the biggest reasons the Ravens were able to win, it was Richardson who outperformed Rice. The slippery rookie was the focus of 34 of Cleveland's 65 offensive plays, running for 105 yards on 25 carries and adding six catches for 31 yards on a game-high nine targets. The blocking in front of him wasn't great, but Richardson routinely ran through arm tackles or spun out of trouble, so it usually took a few Ravens defenders to bring him down. That's no surprise as he is one of the league leaders in broken tackles, according to my friends over at Pro Football Focus.
After watching Richardson run for more than 100 yards in each of the past two weeks, I couldn't help but think of Rice. You shake your head when he slips through a crack seemingly the size of a supermodel and you gasp when he breaks free into the open field. And he is a true three-down, dual-threat running back. The kid is so strong and runs so hard, I'm sure most of you would enjoy watching Richardson in 14 of his 16 games every year. Those other two games? Well, if Richardson gets a little help out there -- we will see if Brandon Weeden can be a true franchise quarterback like Luck and Griffin -- he is going to make these AFC North battles very uncomfortable for Ravens fans for as long as he remains Browns property.