In completing Part 1 of our Cleveland Browns training back preview, "Offensive Attack," we now shift from the quarterbacks to the running backs. The running backs will be broken down into two parts, since there are currently six of them on the roster. We will also touch on what little there is at the fullback position before we move on to the defensive line on Saturday.
1. TRENT RICHARDSON - STARTING RUNNING BACK
You can put a big asterisk next to the 2012 rookie season for Trent Richardson. He missed most of training camp after having knee surgery, but returned just in time for a regular season debut. He then injured his ribs part-way through the season, but toughed it out.
Fans were led to believe that his ribs were only bruised, but after the season ended, Richardson revealed that he kept playing through two broken ribs. Since he wasn't taking time off, he never healed to be anywhere close to 100 percent in terms of health. That means that for every time we were critical of Richardson's running last year, was it really just him making a couple of poor decisions, or was it a byproduct of his injuries? The offensive run blocking was less than stellar prior to John Greco entering the starting lineup too.
This year, Richardson has already suffered a shin injury that kept him out of a few offseason programs. He claims that he will be ready-to-go by the start of training camp, but we shall see. I think we know that Richardson can be a very dynamic player as a runner and a receiver, and I'm very excited to see what Norv Turner has in mind for Richardson in 2013. Richardson also plans on playing lighter this year. He was listed at 230 pounds as a rookie, but he said his goal is to be at 223 pounds this season.
Job Security: A+
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. MONTARIO HARDESTY - BACKUP RUNNING BACK
After Richardson, the rest of the running backs could really fall anywhere on the depth chart or end up being cut. That includes Montario Hardesty, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. His contract is pretty much fully guaranteed this year, but I don't think that increases his odds of making the team.
Hardesty has to look at the fact that the team have brought back two guys -- Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jackson -- back on one-year deals. They also traded for Dion Lewis. They are looking for that No. 2 guy to step up if Richardson is hurt. Hardesty might be the favorite for that role, but he doesn't have the role sealed.
Hardesty's saving grace is that after being completely ignored by Pat Shurmur early last year, when he was given a couple of carries late in the year, he showed a very good burst and ended up finishing the season with a 4.2 yards per carry average. He had some issues catching the ball again, but if he can bring that same intensity to his running style in 2013 (he had a solid camp in 2012), they I think he will begin the year as Richardson's backup.
Job Security: C
Final Roster Odds: 80%
3. BRANDON JACKSON - THIRD-DOWN RUNNING BACK
Other than his experience (and my personal preferential factor), there is no reason to believe that Brandon Jackson is a lock to be the Browns' third-down back in 2013. He was just re-signed a couple of weeks ago, but he will be part of a three-way competition that also includes Chris Ogbonnaya and Dion Lewis.
I thought it was interesting that the Browns waited so long to re-sign Jackson, who definitely got a raw deal in terms of playing time in his two years under the Pat Shurmur era. Jackson finally saw action in his final game last season, and he responded by smoking the Steelers for 6.8 yards per carry.
Those of you who have read my training camp reviews the past two years will know that I have loved the complete package that Jackson brings to the table. He is not electric, but he runs well, catches exceptionally well, and blocks better than any back on the team. He's the perfect guy to be our third-down back if Richardson isn't in the game for all three downs, and I'm glad he's getting another shot this year.
Final Roster Odds: 50%
On Wednesday, we will take a look at the other three running backs on the roster: Chris Ogbonnaya, Dion Lewis, and Miguel Maysonet. For now, our poll below deals with Richardson: are you worried about his injuries, or do you think the reports have been overblown?