When the Indianapolis Colts traded their 2014 first-round pick for Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson, the thought was that Richardson would give Chuck Pagano's team a well-needed dose of smash-mouth football while the Browns were setting up for their future. Richardson was selected third overall in the 2012 draft by Cleveland's prior front office, gained 1,055 yards on the ground and averaged 3.5 yards per carry for the Browns in 17 games.
For the Colts, however, he's gone down to 287 rushing yards in nine games and eight starts -- just 2.8 yards per carry, and his game totals over the last month are alarming -- 20 yards on eight carries against the Texans, two yards on five carries against the Rams, 22 yards on eight carries against the Titans, and 15 yards on seven carries against the Cardinals.
As a result, the Colts are reportedly ready to make a change and demote their high-priced acquisition. According to NFL.com insiders Mike Silver and Ian Rapoport, the team will demote Richardson as the starter in favor of Donald Brown for Sunday's game against the Titans. The Colts will also replace right guard Mike McGlynn with Jeff Linkenbach in an effort to bolster their underperforming offensive line.
The 7-4 Colts have the inside track on the AFC South, but the offense has been problematic lately. The team has been outscored 93-12 in the first halves of its last four games, and lost two of its last three games by a combined score of 78-19.
A Colts source told Rapoport that the team is making these changes, and may make more, because of the realization that this is a bottom-line business. Brown, selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, has 324 yards on just 57 carries, giving him a yards per carry average of 5.7.
Pagano has said all the right things about no regrets regarding the trade, but he's at a loss when asked to explain why Richardson has struggled.
“I don’t know if he’s snake-bit, I don’t know what the heck is going on,” the coach said after the Titans game. “We’ll get it fixed. We’ll get the holes there. He’s making the right reads, he’s doing all the right things, he knows what to do. He played great without the ball, protection-wise, those things. His numbers are going to come. I’m not concerned about that.” Based on the tape, the answer is pretty simple. Brown has a one-cut, slashing style that works despite the less-than-impressive efforts of his blockers. Richardson takes too long to get up to maximum speed, and the holes that are there for him close too quickly as a result. When he was running behind the biggest and baddest offensive line in the NCAA during his Alabama days, that wasn't a problem. But it certainly is now, and if he and the Colts don't find a way to change it, the Colts could come to rue the day that general manager Ryan Grigson made this trade, and they could wind up feeling this way long before they have to give up that first-round pick next year.