So here we are again. Trent Richardson has missed the Browns’ preseason opener as a result of a shin injury. His latest malady should not necessarily provide owners with a massive source of concern, as it occurred when he was kicked during team drills. Plus, his resulting absence during Cleveland’s 27-19 win over the Rams appears to have been a protective measure, rather than the byproduct of a lingering issue. But the emerging sense of déjà vu that ensued following the news that he would miss the contest was disconcerting for some owners who have already utilized a first round draft selection on Richardson. And it supplied sufficient reason for anyone who is considering making that level of investment in upcoming drafts, to review his injury laden rookie season of 2012.
Health issues were a consistent part of Richardson’s rookie year, beginning with a knee surgery and subsequent surgery that prohibited him from performing throughout the entire preseason. Then during the regular season, he suffered broken ribs which prematurely sidelined him during several contests. That eventually was followed by a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss the team’s season finale. That aspect of his 2012 resume understandably created some uneasiness, among many who are pondering the use of a lofty pick on the talented second-year back.
It also has created discussion concerning whether or not the dubious label of “injury prone” should apply to Richardson. However, I believe that it is premature to categorize him as such, even though the conversation is certainly valid based upon his track record of injuries. But a very strong case can be made that the health problems which accumulated last season provide the perfect incentive for Cleveland’s decision makers to be very conservative with Richardson’s latest malady. And to exercise a reasonable level of restraint when exposing their feature back to further punishment. While watching Richardson perform during the preseason opener would have delivered a level of comfort to his owners, it is more critical that Richardson avoid being forced to compete at less than 100% when the Browns line up against Miami on September 8.
That process occurred last season, when he repeatedly played with pain. It also contributed to his 3.6 YPC, and his yardage total of 950, which was exceeded by 17 other backs. He is currently in position to accumulate a mammoth number of touches within the offensive strategy that will be concocted by Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner. And that opportunity will enable him to employ his personal blend of power and elusiveness toward producing at the level of an elite back. A task that will be made far easier if he is not neutralized from being forced to battle another nagging injury during the process.
Therefore, the recommendation from here is to embrace the caution that was utilized when Richardson was reduced to the role of spectator against St. Louis. And to still plan on considering him an indisputable RB1, who should be secured near the close of Round 1.