Trent Richardson stood at the postgame podium last Sunday with a solemn look upon his face and a purple velvet sport jacket fitted perfectly to his frame.
The jacket oozed cool. The face showcased a mix of bewilderment, determination, frustration and confidence.
It was quite a scene … and quite a jacket.
“He’s very confident,” Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said on Thursday. “You like a guy that has confidence in himself.”
Richardson’s performance in the Cleveland Browns opener would test anyone’s confidence. It was overshadowed by the quarterback’s (I guess you can call it) “play.” But for the third overall pick of last April’s draft, Browns fans, coaches, players and Richardson himself expected more. Much more.
Richardson finished with a 2.1 yards per carry average. He had 19 carries for 39 yards.
“It would get frustrating at times, but at the same time you’ve got to think that not every play is going to be perfect,” Richardson said on Sunday. “You can only control the things you can control.
“I have to make people miss and I didn’t make people miss like I usually do, so I have to get on my job.”
His job calls again at 1 p.m. Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) at Paul Brown Stadium. The Browns offense, and Brandon Weeden, need him oh so bad.
First, with all the nonsense floating around Overreaction Week, this must be said: Richardson was the right pick at No. 3 last April. And, no, Colt McCoy does not nor should not be called upon to play quarterback unless Weeden gets injured. Finally, Weeden’s best chance at success this season lies with Richardson.
We are all aware of how today’s NFL and its rules favors the passing attack. Still, a running game is a vital component to a successful offense. The Browns had a running back rush for more than 100 yards only twice last season. We all know the type of offense that attack produced in 2011.
Richardson has played in two football games this calendar year. Before his debut last Sunday, Richardson’s last outing came against LSU in the National Championship game. Moreover, Philadelphia’s defense is a tad bit faster, more talented and complicated than LSU’s.
This week, Richardson will face a Bengals defense that was perceived as one of the league’s best. Cincinnati was fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per play (5.0) and ninth in points allowed per game (20.2).
Bengals linebacker Rey Maulauga, who enjoys driving Pontiac Firebirds with underage girls inside, told CBSSports.com’s Paul Dehner Jr. this week he wasn’t impressed by Richardson. No kiddin’?
“He can run you over and you can miss a tackle, at the same time, from what we've seen he didn't do nothing spectacular,” Maualuga said. “From running screens, missing passes, trying to find a hole when he's running the ball. He just didn't do anything spectacular from what I've seen. I'm pretty sure he's going to want to get after it once he plays us.”
If Richardson needed any added motivation, he just got some.
Meanwhile, the Bengals’ defense is coming off a fine season, but has their own problems after the first week. Last Monday night, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Bengals 44-13. Quarterback Joe Flacco was an efficient 21-for-29 passing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals keyed on running back Ray Rice the Ravens answered with play-action, which allowed Flacco to find plenty of open receivers. When Rice did get his carries, he amassed 68 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries.
The threat of a good running game truly helps a quarterback. Weeden needs that help and Richardson can be his knight in shining seal brown and burnt orange armor. Most importantly, Richardson’s knee responded well to the game action, according to Browns coach Pat Shurmur.
“There was no swelling or anything that happened in the game that would set him back,” Shurmur said. “I anticipate he’ll even have a better week of practice this week, and then we’ll see this weekend how much we use him.”
Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has experienced in his fair share of tough losses during his six-year career in Cleveland. As he entered the locker room after last week’s loss, Jackson noticed the young players, of which Richardson is one, did not take too kindly to the loss. Richardson simply didn’t experience it that often at Alabama.
“You could tell it meant something to (the younger players),” Jackson said. “It’s actually a good thing.”
Richardson has motivation from many angles this week to respond and have a breakout performance. The Browns, who are in desperate need of an offensive playmaker, would welcome such a performance. The more plays Richardson can make on Sundays, the more purple velvet suit jackets he can wear.