With Trent Richardson, that may finally be changing for the running back position.
Richardson is widely considered to be the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson and, should he stay healthy, there is little doubt that he can produce. However, what makes this such a promising position is the added potential of both Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson.
In today’s NFL, it is essential to have high-quality backups that can produce on limited carries. Running backs take a beating and are highly susceptible to injuries, but being spelled for even a few carries per drive goes a long way to preventing that. In Hardesty and Jackson, the Browns are looking at two viable options behind Richardson.
The only problem, of course, is staying healthy. Both Hardesty and Jackson are coming off injuries, with Hardesty staying true to his label of being injury-prone ever since he entered the league. However, when healthy, both can be productive. That was evident last season when Hardesty rushed for 99 yards against the Seattle Seahawks and in 2010 when Jackson rushed for 703 yards in Green Bay.
While there are a handful of backs in the NFL who can operate without much backup help (St. Louis’ Steven Jackson has been doing it for years), Richardson’s initial success is going to depend on what the team gets from either Hardesty or Jackson. The best case scenario is that there will be enough carries to go around for all three backs, but that doesn’t mean the position battle won’t be compelling throughout training camp.
The early guess would be that Jackson gets the backup role, relegating Hardesty to the third spot on the depth chart. However, as last season – and plenty of other Browns’ seasons – have showed, a third running back is just one injury away from getting major playing time. If both Jackson and Hardesty can stay healthy, they’ll provide plenty of reliable depth behind Trent Richardson, which will go a long way to improving a long-dormant offense.