Running Backs – Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Dion Lewis, Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Miguel Maysonet and Owen Marecic
Richardson (5-9, 230, 22, 2nd year)—Richardson is being counted upon to be the workhorse back for the Browns. Richardson said during minicamp that Norv Turner told him he expected him to be the ‘bell cow’ for the offense. Turner has had three players combine for five NFL rushing titles under him Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson and Ricky Williams.
Richardson said that Smith told him that Turner’s offense was a perfect fit for him and he is excited to get going.
Richardson led the Browns as a rookie with 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite missing all of the preseason after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Richardson played in the first 15 games before missing the season finale with an ankle injury. He went over the 100-yard mark three times with his biggest game coming against Turner’s Chargers as he totaled 122 yards on 24 carries, including a 26-yard touchdown run.
Richardson also had 51 receptions for 367 yards and a touchdown. He is expected to play a big part in the receiving game in Turner’s offense, as well.
One of the biggest concerns during the OTAs and the June minicamp was Richardson’s health as he sat out with what was described as a lower leg strain. He insisted he could play if it was during the season and Chudzinski said that he expects Richardson to be ready for the start of camp.
Hardesty (6-0, 225, 26, 4th year)—Hardesty was healthy for the first time in his career and showed flashes of explosiveness on different occasions. He rushed for 271 yards on 65 carries (4.2 avg.) with a touchdown. He caught two passes for 16 yards.
Hardesty’s best game was when he picked up 52 yards on 10 carries against the Chiefs, including a 25-yard run.
Ogbonnaya (6-0, 225, 27, 4th year)—Ogbonnaya played in 15 games, including one start. He was used as a third down back and finished the season with 24 receptions for 187 yards. His best game was against the Bengals in the second week when he caught six passes for 73 yards. The Browns might choose to use Ogbonnaya, at times, as the blocking back opposite of Richardson.
Jackson (5-10, 215, 27, 7th year) – Jackson was used little in 2012 after missing the 2011 season with a turf toe injury. In Richardson’s absence in the season finale against the Steelers, Jackson carried the ball eight times for 54 yards, including a 25-yard run.
Jackson was an unrestricted free agent and the Browns chose to bring him back prior to the OTAs, most likely as insurance behind Richardson and Hardesty.
Lewis (5-8, 195, 22, 3rd year) – Lewis was acquired in a trade from the Eagles for linebacker Emmanuel Acho. In his first two seasons with the Eagles, Lewis carried the ball 36 times for 171 yards with two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 21 yards. Lewis is looked to be a change of pace back and he can also return kickoffs. Lewis was with the Eagles when CEO Joe Banner was part of the process of drafting him out of Pitt and is high on the third year player.
Maysonet (5-10, 210, 23, 1st year) – Maysonet was signed as an undrafted free agent rookie from Stony Brook where he set numerous records. He will be a long-shot to make the roster, but could land on the practice squad.
Marecic (6-0, 245, 24, 3rd year)—Marecic is the only player listed as a fullback on the roster heading into training camp. After starting as a rookie, Marecic lost his starting job to Alex Smith, who was previously a tight end last season. Marecic started just two games in 2012 and had no rushes and caught no passes. However, he dropped several passes. There’s a good chance he will have to have a great training camp to make the roster.
Summary: The Browns appear to be deep in the running back department, but thin in the fullback department. It is unclear if the Browns will employ a conventional fullback or what they will do at the position. There is some thought the Browns will employ two running backs or use a tight end in the backfield like an H-back.
The Browns plan on using Richardson heavily and have taken extreme precaution to allow him to be healthy heading into the season. Richardson had a knee injury, two broken ribs and an ankle injury in 2012, but missed just one game.
If healthy, Richardson should thrive in the system used by Turner.
Hardesty will likely be the backup to Richardson with Ogbonnaya or Lewis the change of pace or third down back.
(Next up: We’ll take a look at the Wide Receiver position in our third position preview)