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T-Rich facing too many hurdles
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There are a number of factors standing between Browns running back Trent Richardson and a successful rookie season, but I don't consider his August knee scope to be one of them.

I've never believed Richardson's second arthroscopic knee surgery of 2012 was going to be a major hindrance to the running back's season despite speculation that he would be limited in the early weeks. Richardson received 19 carries in Week 1, so it's evident the Browns didn't think the No. 3 overall pick needed to be protected.

Unfortunately, the 5-foot-9, 230-pound back only averaged 2.1 yards per carry and finished with 39 yards against the Eagles last Sunday.

If you want to point to his lack of preseason reps or blame the knee for sapping his drive and explosiveness Sunday, that's fine, but I think something else was responsible for his paltry rushing total.

Fellow rookie Brandon Weeden had one of the worst debuts any of us have ever seen Sunday, completing 12-of-35 (34.3) passes and throwing four interceptions. His QB rating was 5.1 and his yards per attempt was 3.4.

Weeden didn't just look unfit for NFL competition, he looked like he would have had trouble completing passes in the UFL, CFL, AFL and the Pop Warner league your 9-year-old plays in on Saturdays. He was that bad. Of course, we know he can play at a somewhat high level, as he proved in recording two straight 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown seasons as the starting QB at Oklahoma State.

But the defenses he saw in the Big 12 aren't anything like the complex schemes he'll see this season. Heck, even much-maligned Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo looked like a genius against Weeden Sunday; what will Pittsburgh DC Dick LeBeau accomplish when he plays him twice?

True, the Browns don't have any proven weapons on the outside, but even if they had receivers creating separation Sunday it's likely Weeden would have missed them.

That's going to leave Richardson facing eight- and even nine-men in the box routinely. I don't care how talented you are, if there's no threat that your quarterback can complete a pass you're not going to go far when you get a hand off.

Then there's the schedule.

Based on last season's totals, the Browns play in the toughest division for running the football in the NFL. Division foes Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati all ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards against last season.

Cleveland will also play Dallas, who ranked seventh in the NFL, and San Diego, who gave up 122.2 rushing yards per game but also allowed just eight rushing scores, tied for third best in the NFL.

Favorable matchups against Kansas City, the Giants, Buffalo and Indianapolis may elevate Richardson's value, but how many carries can we reasonably expect from him if the Browns fall behind big in each of those games. Yes, he received 19 Sunday but that game would have been a blowout had Michael Vick not thrown four interceptions of his own.

I still like Richardson as a flex option most weeks and RB2 when he has a favorable matchup, but we'll likely see something closer to Knowshon Moreno's rookie season (247 carries, 947 yards, 7 TDs) than Adrian Peterson's (238, 1,341, 12).




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.


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