When a team’s talent reservoir is as shallow as the kiddie pool the Cleveland Browns‘ roster resembles, it’s hard to find a piece that can be designated as absolutely irreplaceable. Since 2008 the Browns have won just four or five games in five straight seasons, but a piece that they added to the puzzle last season could help them change those fortunes.
Running back Trent Richardson was limited by broken ribs during a few games in his rookie campaign a year ago, but he was one of the few bright spots for the Brownies on the season. For a six-week stretch from Week 8 against the San Diego Chargers to Week 14 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, Richardson had 18 or more carries in every game and Cleveland went 4-2 during that time frame. For a team that only won a grand total of five games in 2012, that’s a pretty significant accomplishment.
Having a balanced attack is very indicative of a team’s win/loss record, and the Browns were the perfect example of that a year ago. In games where Richardson carried the ball less than 20 times, the Browns were a dismal 2-9. But when they fed their most important offensive piece the ball, Cleveland was .500 at 3-3 including a few nail biting losses.
As Richardson goes, so do the Browns and that is clearly the sign of an irreplaceable player. His 5-foot-9 230-pound frame is perfect for grinding out close games and picking up vital first-downs when necessary. If they can maintain any semblance of a balanced attack and quarterback Brandon Weeden can at least threaten opponents with a passing game, Richardson should find even more room to run.
For a team that has been down on its luck, the Browns definitely have a keeper in Richardson to handle the ball carrying duties for the foreseeable future. The key for him will be to stay healthy as his bruising style lends itself to a lot of wear and tear during the course of a grueling 16-game season. He’s clearly irreplaceable for Cleveland as his mere presence makes their win percentage climb much higher.