Every once in a while, an athlete comes across the NFL Draft stage as a surefire all-around prospect who can’t miss. “Guaranteed” should be stamped on his jersey instead of a number. Trent Richardson was that player coming out of Alabama. In 2011, he rushed for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was going to make an impact and be the face of a franchise for many years to come. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock called him, “The best tailback prospect since Adrian Peterson” in 2007, per the Star Tribune‘s Dan Wiederer. Mayock went on to say, “His size-speed ratio is great,” and, “He’s got tremendous feet for his size, really good balance and good vision.” These are the reasons the Cleveland Browns selected him with the third overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
By the end of his rookie season, Richardson showed promise. As a starter, he rushed for 950 yards on 267 attempts and scored 11 touchdowns (3.6 yards per carry) – he also caught 51 passes on 70 targets for 367 yards and one score. Unfortunately, the 3.6 yards per carry average was a big problem for the Browns.
In 2013, Richardson played in just two games for the Browns, gained only 105 yards on 31 attempts for a (3.4 yards per carry) and did not score a single touchdown. The Browns traded him to Indianapolis and the Colts started him days later. I was at his first game in San Francisco. I saw a player who couldn’t see a hole when given and be dominated by Ahmad Bradshaw in rushing yards. As a Colts fan, I didn’t make much of it. He rushed for a touchdown, his 13 carries for 35 yards was inadequate, but I figured he would need time to get used to the playbook. I reassured myself that things would get better.
Boy, was I wrong.
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Richardson finished his second season rushing for 78 fewer yards and five fewer touchdowns than he did in Cleveland in 12 more games as a Colt, and even sported a terrible 2.9 yards per carry average. We all wondered if the Colts made a mistake in giving up their first round choice for a traded player who failed miserably in year two. Statements flew around that Richardson didn’t have time to learn the Colts playbook and he had a massive adjustment coming from Cleveland to Indianapolis.
Again, more excuses.
Indianapolis was bent on changing all this. During the 2014 off-season, the Colts did everything they could to help Richardson be a benefit to the team. They even brought in former Colts running back and potential Hall of Fame member Edgerrin James to coach him up. He improved initially running 159 times for 519 yards (3.3 yards per carry) for three touchdowns, but by week 15, the Colts had enough of his lack of progress and weight gain. They sat him out the rest of the season including the playoffs.
In 2015, Trent Richardson will be donning the “silver and black” of the Raiders. Going to Oakland has a magical effect resurrecting many failing careers and T-Rich could be the next comeback story.
The goal is to rebuild Trent Richardson’s confidence as there is no doubt it has been shaken. Here is a player who never had to fight for anything and played at an elite level in every portion of the game before going pro, only to be traded after his first NFL season from the team that drafted him, get dumped by the Colts and draw almost no interest in the free agency market. That would shake anyone’s confidence. The coaches need to put him in winning situations, empower him and show him that he can restore his career. While speaking to ESPN.com’s, Mike Wells, Richardson stated, “It didn’t work out in Indy, but I know my pedigree and I know what I’m made of.”
Many think Richardson has nothing to offer, but I say there are strategies the Raiders can use that the others overlooked. The Raiders need to use Richardson in ways that make him successful in the offense. First, the areas he excelled during the last three years are in both the receiving and blocking departments. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will likely place T-Rich on passing downs at first. There he can use his hands or block if needed, and he can take pride in his role. The more he is successful, the stronger his talents will grow. Another place is at the goal line. To get touchdowns in the red zone he needs to plow ahead, not waste time dancing or shuffling his feet. The more he feels successful in running downhill the more he will do it. “I know what they [the coaching staff] expect and how they’re going to spread the field, putting me in a position to be successful,” said Richardson. “With that, in talking to [Head] Coach [Jack Del Rio], he just said there is just a lot of opportunity out here.
LaDainian Tomlinson took to the airwaves to talk about Trent Richardson in Oakland.
“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Trent,” Tomlinson said. “He wants to do the things that it takes to be a really good football player. He can be the guy who comes in, gives them carries, but really be a physical mindset. If Trent Richardson gets his mind right that that can be him, then I believe he can have a nice role with that offense.”
What is evident is that Richardson needs to go back to the roots on what made him a successful running back in Alabama. He needs to be the player who would hit the open spaces, make quick decisions, see the open field and only use his foot work when it was necessary. I don’t doubt that Richardson can be a “bell cow” back. It will be up to him, but I believe Trent Richardson still has some dynasty value left.
We’ll see starting tonight.