Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cleveland Browns Running Backs

   Last year, the Cleveland Browns running attack was very simple:  "All Trent, all the time!"  Despite playing with injured ribs, Trent Richardson was not only the feature back, but he was also the best third down back and the best short yardage back.

Trent Richardson will bend over backwards to find the end zone. 

Thus, the rushing burden fell on Trent Richardson, who despite playing with broken ribs was able to rush 267 times for 950 yards (3.6 yards per carry) and also made 51 catches for 367 yards and for the most part blocked very well.  

    Behind Richardson, last year Coach Pat Shurmur and his assistant Brad Childress made some very weird moves. 

    First of all, Brandon Jackson, who in 2010 rushed for over 700 yards for the Packers, has been the Forgotten Man.  Injured in 2011, he was benched in 2012 despite a good preseason.  Finally in the last game against the Steelers, he rushed 8 times for 54 yards, or 6.8 yards per carry, making the rest of us wonder where he had been the entire year. To my knowledge there was never an explanation for why Jackson wasn't being used, he just sat on the bench.  

I don't know what Brandon Jackson did to get in Shurmur's doghouse, but that's where he stayed till the last game of 2012.  

    Similary, Chris Ogbonnaya stepped in for Peyton Hillis in 2011 and performed well, getting 4.6 yards per carry,  blocking well and also catching the ball well (23 catches).  In 2012, Ogbonnaya continued to catch the ball out of the backfield but was not allowed to run the ball, getting only 8 rushing attempts for the entire YEAR.

So what's wrong with Chris Ogbonnaya that the Browns don't want to play him?

    The main backup in 2012 was Montario Hardesty, with a mediocre 3.5 yards per carry for his career.  Montario dropped an incredible number of passes in 2011, so much so that they quit throwing to him altogether in 2012.  He is also not known for his blocking ability.  What he did reasonably well was to run the ball between the tackles, but he did not help the team blocking or catching passes.  He also seems to be a hard worker, and perhaps he can correct those problems and become a good backup for Richardson.  But if he does not improve, my opinion is that Ogbonnaya and Jackson are both better overall players.  I think the Browns coaching staff may have felt the need to play Hardesty in order to placate former GM Tom Heckert who foolishly gave up three draft picks to get Hardesty.    If you give up three draft picks, the guy should be a starter, but in reality the Browns are hoping he can develop into a decent backup.  

Montario Hardesty ran well at times last year, but didn't catch the ball and didn't block well.  He has the speed size and works hard, so maybe he'll improve.

Dion Lewis is a speed back, picked up from Philadelphia in the off-season.  The Browns may try him in third down situations.  

    It also bears mention that between Richardson and Hardesty, the Browns under the direction of Tom Heckert gave up seven draft choices to get the two backs (1, 3, 4, 4, 4, 7, 7).  This is simply an unbelievable outlay to get one good regular (third best rookie running back of 2012) and a marginal backup.  
   At fullback, Owen Marecic is still number one on the depth chart.  He struggled running the ball, catching it and in blocking, and many fans wonder why the Browns cut Lawrence Vickers, a stud blocker.  I think the Browns may try to play a tight end at fullback or perhaps use a tight end at the h-back position.  Or perhaps Marecic will improve enough to re-establish himself as a starter.  

Owen Marecic is the incumbent starting fullback for the Browns.  The Browns did not draft a challenger for Owen, but did pick up a few extra tight ends, some of whom are good blockers.      

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