Browns running back Trent Richardson made it clear today that he wants the ball more.
He hopes his wish is granted Sunday when the Browns (0-1) visit the Baltimore Ravens (0-1).
Richardson, the third overall pick in last year’s draft, had 13 carries for 47 yards (3.6 average) to go along with two catches for 30 yards Sunday in the Browns’ 23-10, season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins. Richardson had only five carries in the second half and none in the fourth quarter. The Browns were trailing by just three points entering the final quarter.
"I don't think [the Dolphins] really stopped the running game,” Richardson said. “I think we stopped it ourselves as far as just getting away from [it]. We were behind and stuff like that, and we’ve just got to keep fighting. And no matter what, we got to stick to our game plan. And I guess coach had another game plan and it went that way.”
In the five games in which Richardson had 20 carries or more, he averaged 95.8 rushing yards per game, and the Browns went 3-2. In the 11 games in which he received fewer than 20 carries, including Sunday, he averaged 47.1 rushing yards per game, and the Browns went 2-9. Richardson missed one game last season, sitting out the finale with a high ankle sprain.
The 5-foot-9, 225-pound Richardson thought he was going to have a big game Sunday after tallying four carries for 26 yards (6.5 average) during the opening possession, but it didn’t happen.
“I just thought that we were going to run the ball, and I thought it would be a real good day,” Richardson said. “I just knew that if we can run the ball on any team, I feel like it’s going to be a fight down to the finish and we were going to win.”
Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner explained his reasoning Richardon’s lack of touches and stressed that he wants Richardson to receive more than 20 carries a game.
“We came out and we executed four or five plays awfully well,” Turner said. “And then they hit us with a couple run blitzes, which teams are going to do. They came at us when we started getting a little bit of run and then we didn’t execute as well. They’re a good run defense, so we got some things early. I think if we’d gotten [Richardson] his -- what I’d like to see him in that over 20 carries -- I think he would’ve had more production.”
Richardson said there “should be” a breakout game for him on the horizon.
“I control the things I can control,” Richardson said. “When I get the ball, that’s when I can do my best, and even when I don’t have the ball, my offensive line, we’ve got to get better in all areas, not just pass blocking or run blocking. We’ve got to make sure we do everything right with penalties and all the stuff like that. But our offensive is getting better every day, and I [commend] these guys, all the hard work and all the [adversity] they’ve been through with two offensive linemen being out.”
Richardson also lamented his limited use on third downs – the Browns converted just 1-of-14 against the Dolphins. Richardson played 51-of-77 offensive snaps (66 percent). Chris Ogbonnaya, who’s listed as the team’s top fullback, often filled the role of the third-down running back.
“We got a good third-down [back] in Obie, too,” Richardson said. “I know Obie is prepared for all things, but it was kind of a shocker that I didn't play as much as I thought on third down.”
Turner chalked it up to Richardson needing to play catch-up after missing some time during training camp with a bothersome right shin.
“A lot of it is where we’re at as a group,” Turner said. “We want Trent on the field. There’s some things he’s ready to handle in our third-down stuff, in our nickel package, and there’s some things Obi’s going to handle that stuff for a while. Trent missed some time obviously in camp, and there’s some things that we want to use him in there, and we’re going to do it when we can.”
Richardson said he’s eager to receive a heavier workload, and he has talked to Turner and coach Rob Chudzinski about it.
“It’s something that you practice for, that you prepare for,” Richardson said. “All my life I’ve been that guy. So when it comes down to it, at the end of the day, I control what I can control, but if it’s going to help the team out that I get less carries, if it’s going to help the team out that I get more carries, I’m all for it. And I can’t wait till that day comes when I’m getting 25 reps-plus or whatever. I know coach felt like he left me down, this and that, and it’s not that. I’m behind coach 100 percent, and I know we were playing behind [against the Dolphins], so he had to do what he had to try to put points on the board.”
Richardson believes the Ravens will have “a bull's-eye” on him Sunday after he rushed for 105 yards on 25 carries to go along with six catches for 31 yards in their second meeting last season. And he’s not underestimating their defense just because future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed no longer are part of it.
“It's more talent than I have ever seen, even with Ray and Ed not there,” Richardson said. “They are very talented. They're fast. They're bullies, and they're going to do anything they can to stop you, and they're not just talented up front, they're talented all around.”
Ready for revenge
Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger admitted he was “frustrated” with the limited playing time – 22 defensive snaps -- he received last season in the Super Bowl as a member of the Ravens.
“I am a competitive guy and I want to be in there on every play and to have limited reps in the biggest game of your life, it is tough, and I think anyone who did not say that would be lying to you,” Kruger said. “And I have had to have a chip on my shoulder since I came into the league. I think pretty much everybody does. That is just how football is played. You have to play tough, and you got to play angry, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
Kruger, who signed a five-year, $40 million deal with the Browns in March, is eager to face his former team Sunday.
When asked if he wants to tear somebody’s head off in Baltimore, Kruger said, “Absolutely, that is the goal every week. Yeah, definitely, I have thought about it and as soon as I knew I was coming here, being able to play against those guys, I knew it was going to be intense.”
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton is planning to ease rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo into his NFL regular-season debut after the latter missed the final two exhibition games and the season opener with a bruised lung.
“We’re going to ease him in,” Horton said. “Obviously, if you’re a first-round pick, you want him on the field as much as you can. It’s going to be what he can handle. I also want to realize that he’s only played seven plays total, so I just don’t want to throw him in there and say, ‘Go!’
“There were some errors last week from guys playing different positions. He’ll be playing for the first time, so I want to eliminate the error factor by calling a different game. I don’t want to overload him his first game, but I also want to give him some soft pitches to hit. I want to give him some less thinking and more reaction type stuff.”
Strong safety T.J. Ward (shoulder) returned to practice today after sitting out Wednesday.
Defensive end Ahtyba Rubin (calf) and right guard Shawn Lauvao (high ankle sprain) continued to sit out.