DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister
Many in the national media were surprised when the Cleveland Browns traded up one spot to select Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the third pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Although the Browns had a huge need at the running back position and Richardson was viewed by many as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, the thought of a running back being selected so early in a “passing league” was shocking to fans and analysts alike. After one season as a pro, Richardson still has a long way to go to live up to his lofty draft status. In Richardson’s defense for his up and down rookie season, he missed the entire preseason after undergoing a left knee operation, played nine games with two broken ribs, and missed the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers with an ankle injury.
Trent Richardson’s ProFootballFocus.com Profile
By ProFootballFocus.com’s standards, Trent Richardson played three good games, nine average or solid games, and three poor games during the 2012 season. He was on the field for 725 of the Browns’ total 1,064 offensive snaps. You can also see that Richardson gave up two sacks, three quarterback hits, and four quarterback hurries in pass protection.
As a runner, Richardson produced 950 yards, 11 touchdowns (Cleveland Browns rookie record), three fumbles, and forced 40 missed tackles (sixth most amongst all running backs) on 267 carries for a 3.6 yard per carry average (second worst amongst all running backs that were on the field for at least 50% of their team’s offensive snaps) during his rookie campaign. Richardson also averaged 2.1 yards per carry after contact (20th most amongst all 28 running backs that were on the field for at least 50% of their team’s offensive snaps).
As a receiver, Richardson caught 83.6% of the passes thrown in his direction (caught 51 out of 61 targets) and produced 367 yards, one touchdown, and forced 19 missed tackles. Richardson also dropped five passes and averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception (16th most amongst all 28 running backs that were on the field for at least 50% of their team’s offensive snaps).
Playing Like a Rookie
I am taking a new approach in this edition of “Browns Film Room“. In the past, I have looked at the overall skill set of a specific player in each edition. This time, I have decided that I am only going to look at run plays where Trent Richardson made mistakes as a ball carrier. This will allow me to show some examples of why I have been so critical of Richardson’s rookie season. Although he was my favorite prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft class and I am still a big fan of his overall talent level, I noted numerous plays throughout the 2012 season where Richardson displayed poor vision, a lack of patience, or simply played as though the speed of the NFL game was too fast for him. Admittedly, the situation that Richardson was playing in was far from ideal, but there were still many things that he could have done better.
Week Five: New York Giants
Before the snap, the offense lines up in an I-formation with the strength of the formation to the right. You can tell that the strength is to the right because the tight end is lined up on that side of the offensive line. Richardson is the tailback. He lines up seven yards behind the line of scrimmage.
At the snap of the ball, it is almost immediately apparent that this is a Lead Iso Weak run play. The fullback leads through the B-gap between the left guard and tackle, the left tackle blocks the right defensive end, the tight end blocks the left defensive end, the right guard and tackle double team the three-technique defensive tackle, and the center and left guard double team the one-technique defensive tackle. The run is designed to go behind the fullback through the left B-gap.
The offensive linemen all execute their blocks at the first level and the fullback delivers an excellent block on the Will linebacker in the hole. After combining with the center in double teaming the one-technique on the first level, the left guard climbs to the second level and seals off the Mike linebacker. Just as the play is designed, a crease has formed in the B-gap. At this point, Richardson should put his left foot in the ground and cut up through the hole. If he can execute this cut effectively, he will be into the third level of the defense.
Rather than cutting up into the hole as the play is designed, Richardson’s eyes go to the outside. He bounces the run to the outside and the right defensive end disengages from the left tackle. With Richardson cutting to the outside, the left tackle has no chance of sustaining his block any longer without holding. The defensive end begins to pursue Richardson to the outside.
The defensive end and right cornerback close in on Richardson and tackle him in the open field for a measly one-yard gain on the play. Had Richardson followed the play’s design and ran through the B-gap, he would have had a good chance of gaining much more than one yard on the play.
Week Seven: Indianapolis Colts
The offense initially lines up in an unbalanced I-formation with the strength of the formation to the right. You can tell that this is an unbalanced formation because the offense has subbed in an extra offensive tackle and lined him up as the inside tight end to the right. To his outside, there is a second tight end. To the weak side of the formation, there is another tight end. Just before the snap of the ball, the fullback motions to an offset position to the weak side.
At the snap of the ball, it is immediately apparent that this is an outside zone run play to the weak side. The offensive linemen all slide step to the left and block the defender in the gap to their left. Richardson takes the hand off as the fullback leads in front of him. The fullback’s assignment (as illustrated above) is to block the right outside linebacker. If he can seal the linebacker to the outside and the offensive line effectively execute their blocks, a lane should open in the D-gap for Richardson to run through.
The left tight end moved to the outside of the right defensive end at the snap of the ball and effectively sealed him inside. The fullback did a beautiful job of sealing the outside linebacker to the outside. The left tackle has climbed to the second level and blocked the weak inside linebacker in the end zone. These three key blocks have created a large lane in the D-gap for Richardson to run through. With the strong inside linebacker pursuing Richardson, he may not walk into the end zone untouched on the play, but it should still be a touchdown nonetheless. Richardson must plant his left foot in the ground, cut upfield into the hole, get his shoulders square to the end zone, and get his momentum going downhill.
Above is an All-22 angle of the previous image. The black arrow shows where Richardson should go and the white arrow shows where Richardson chooses to go. You can see the tight end sealing his man to the inside, the fullback sealing his man to the outside, and the left tackle making his block in the end zone.
Rather than cutting up into the hole and scoring what should be an easy touchdown, Richardson bounces the run to the outside.
Due to Richardson bouncing the run to the outside, the fullback has no chance of sustaining his block any longer without holding. The outside linebacker that was once sealed to the outside wraps up Richardson in the backfield.
Richardson gets tackled in the backfield for a three-yard loss on the play. This play occurred on second and goal inside the one-yard on the first play of the second quarter.
Week 11: Dallas Cowboys
Prior to the snap, the offense again lines up in an unbalanced I-formation with the strength to the right. This time, the extra offensive tackle is the outside right tight end. A tight end motions from a left outside tight end position to the right inside tight end position between the right tackle and the extra offensive tackle. There is another tight end lined up on the weak side of the formation. Richardson lines up seven yards deep in the backfield with a fullback in front of him.
At the snap of the ball, it is immediately apparent that this is a Lead Iso Strong run play. The center takes on the nose tackle one on one, the left tackle and guard double team the right three-technique defensive tackle, and the right guard and tackle double team the left three-technique defensive tackle. Each of the tight ends do not make blocks at the first level and the extra offensive lineman makes his way to the outside to block the strong safety. The fullback leads through whichever gap comes open and Richardson’s job is to follow him through the hole.
The offensive linemen have all beautifully executed blocks on the first level as Richardson takes the handoff.
With the offensive linemen all sealing their men to the left, a huge hole has opened in the C-gap to the outside of the right tackle. Rather than doing what the play instructs him to do, Richardson runs straight toward the middle of the offensive line. If Richardson had followed the fullback through the C-gap, he had probably made his way into the end zone untouched for an easy touchdown.
Richardson leaps in the air in hopes of jumping over the line and scoring a touchdown. He has no idea that he would have had a much easier scoring opportunity had he followed the play design.
Richardson is met by a defender at the peak of his jump and he falls to the ground. What could have been an easy touchdown results in no yards gained. This play occurred on third and goal inside the one-yard line with 1:49 left on the clock. The Browns were trailing by four points at this point. On the next play, the quarterback overthrew a tight end in the back left corner of the end zone; resulting in a turnover on downs.
The Browns’ offense comes out in 11 personnel with trips to the left. The quarterback is in shotgun with Richardson offset to the left. Since the tight end has gone in motion to the left slot, the left side is considered the strong side of the formation.
At the snap of the ball, the center and left tackle pull to the left side as the tight end executes a crack back block on the right outside linebacker. The right guard cut blocks the one-technique defensive tackle as the left guard and right tackle each make their way to the second level of the defense. Richardson steps back to his left and gets ready to receive a pitch from the quarterback. This is a variation of the Crack Toss Sweep.
Richardson catches the pitch and begins to make his way out to the edge of the defense. Notice that Richardson is carrying the ball in his inside arm. Although this is a minute detail, it is a very important detail on this play. Considering that ball carriers are taught to carry the ball in their outside arm in Pee Wee, NFL running backs should certainly be executing this fundamental technique consistently.
The strong inside linebacker pursues Richardson to the edge of the defense, closes in on him, and nearly gets to him. The left tackle shows excellent awareness in turning around and blocking the linebacker in space. The block allows Richardson to continue his run to the outside.
As Richardson closes in on the first down marker, a safety comes up from a deep half and closes in on him. Rather than lowering his shoulder and running over the safety with his nearly 230 lb. frame, Richardson begins stutter stepping in an attempt to make the safety miss. This slows down Richardson considerably.
As Richardson and the safety collide, the safety makes contact with Richardson’s inside arm. The ball immediately comes out and lands on the ground between his legs.
Both players dive on the ground in an attempt to recover the fumble. Many other players dive into the pile and the Cowboys recover the fumble. Had Richardson carried the ball in his outside arm and lowered his shoulder in an attempt to run the safety over, I highly doubt that he would have fumbled on the play. When Richardson and the safety collided, Richardson was one yard away from the first down marker. This play occurred on third and five at the Browns’ 19-yard line with 12:55 left in the fourth quarter. The Browns had a 13-10 lead at this point.
Week 12: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Browns line up in an Ace formation with the strength of the formation to the right. Richardson is again lined up approximately seven yards behind the line of scrimmage.
At the snap of the ball, the left guard pulls to the right and aims for the strong inside linebacker in the C-gap between the right tackle and tight end. The rest of the offensive line blocks down on the defender in the gap to their left. The tight end blocks the left outside linebacker. This is the beginning of a Power run play to the strong side.
A typical Power run play is designed to go through the C-gap. I can not be certain that this variation is designed to go through the C-gap, but it is easy to see the gigantic hole that has opened up. Richardson has his eyes to the middle of the line of scrimmage. He should have the vision and awareness to see the hole in the C-gap even if this variation of the Power play were designed to go to a different gap. If he were to go through the hole, he would be one on one with the free safety. Trent Richardson against a free safety in the open field is a matchup that most offensive coaches would take every time.
Richardson sees some daylight in the left A-gap and he cuts in that direction. You can still see how enormous the hole is in the C-gap.
Richardson lowers his pad level and tries to make something out of nothing. He gains three yards on the play, but it would have been interesting to see how many he would have gained had he followed the left guard through the C-gap.
All in all, Trent Richardson is a great talent, but he still has a long way to go if he wishes to reach his potential. For all of the physical abilities that he possesses, he must improve most in the mental aspects of the game. If the Browns’ offensive line does a better job of sustaining blocks, Richardson stays healthy, and quarterback Brandon Weeden does a better job of threatening defenses vertically, expect Richardson’s production to greatly improve during the 2013 season.