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Browns 2012 review: Running backs

Jan 16, 2013 -- 6:00am

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By Tony Grossi

The Morning Kickoff …

2012 position review: With all the post-season attention riveted on the Browns’ football operations overhaul, not much has been paid to the players. After the coach and personnel director are found, the roster will get a thorough review. This is the fifth in a periodic series analyzing the Browns’ position groups.

Position: Running backs.

Players under contract (through year): Montario Hardesty (2013), Owen Marecic (‘14), Trent Richardson (’15).

Players not under contract: Chris Ogbonnaya, Brandon Jackson.

Total snaps (incl. special teams): Richardson, 702;  Ogbonnaya, 308; Marecic, 219;  Hardesty, 167; Jackson, 38.

Most common starters: Richardson, Marecic.

Analysis: The Browns gave up three draft picks to move up one spot and take Richardson third overall because they wanted to ensure dependability at the position. So what happened? Richardson had arthroscopic knee surgery in August and missed all four exhibition games, and then suffered a rib injury in Game 6. The Browns termed the injury “rib cartilage.” After the season, Richardson confessed he suffered “two or three” broken ribs. Dependability? Richardson essentially missed the second halves of Games 6 and 7 and then played through the remaining 10 games. Dependability? Richardson’s 702 offensive snaps ranked ninth among NFL running backs. He was on the field for 68 percent of his team’s offensive snaps – tied for eighth. Despite picayune criticism of his lack of long runs, Richardson had 950 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns – breaking Jim Brown’s marks in a 12-game schedule – and added 51 catches and one receiving TD. Richardson’s 3.6-yard average most definitely was a product of broken ribs. Hardesty showed some verve in a reserve role, but petered out at the end. Ogbonnaya’s high ankle sprain in preseason set him back, enabling Hardesty more playing time as the backup. Jackson, who had a good fourth preseason game, was totally unused until the 16th game. He rushed 8 times for 54 yards, suggesting he was wasted on the Sunday inactive list for 15 weeks. Marecic – no rushing yards and four drops in four pass targets – proved a wasted fourth-round pick from the 2011 draft.

Bottom line: Under a new regime and coaching staff, Richardson is the only sure thing to stay.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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