Richardson needs to produce more

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
3:10
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson's rushing -- or lack of it -- has been a topic every week since he was acquired from the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 18.

Richardson has said he will find his rhythm rushing the ball.

Everybody is still waiting for that to happen.

Is it Richardson?

Is it poor blocking by the offensive line?

Is it offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's play calling?

I'm going with all three.

The offensive line has been inconsistent this season and Hamilton said a couple of weeks ago that he needs to do a better job of putting Richardson in position to be successful.

But no matter what, the finger will inevitably be pointed at Richardson, the Browns' No. 3 overall draft pick in 2012. He's the one the Colts gave up a first-round pick for in September. He was supposed to join quarterback Andrew Luck as the team's offensive cornerstones. And he's supposed to be the player who put on video game-type moves while starring at Alabama.

Richardson raised some eyebrows when he told the Indianapolis Star on Monday that he's "been playing good." To his credit, Richardson has done a good job with his assignments and picking up blocks.

But the number that has a lot of people alarmed is 2.8.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesTrent Richardson has yet to have success running the ball as a member of the Colts.
That's how many yards per carry Richardson is averaging since being acquired from the Browns. The 2.8 average is 45th in the league among running backs. Richardson, who has yet to rush for more than 60 yards in a game this season, will continue to be criticized until he improves that average.

Chuck Pagano was quick to defend his running back last week. In fact, the coach seemed baffled at how quickly the holes close or how Richardson is being met a yard or two behind the line of scrimmage by defenders when he takes the handoff at times.

“I don't know if he's snake bit; I don't know what the heck is going on,” Pagano said. “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.”

Patience is a thing the Richardson and the Colts have been talking about for weeks. But the fan base isn't patient. The fans wonder why Richardson can't be averaging 6.1 yards a carry like Donald Brown. Some have said Brown should be the starter over Richardson.

That's not happening anytime soon. Pagano said last week that Richardson will remain the starter. The difference will be later in games because Pagano will go with the running back who's producing. That's how things were supposed to be when the season started. Hamilton talked about having a two-headed monster in the backfield with Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard. Then Bradshaw and Richardson. And now Richardson and Brown.

That was the case against Tennessee. Brown had 10 of his 14 carries in the second half, compared to only seven carries for Richardson. Brown and Richardson finished with 80 and 22 yards, respectively.

“I think the way we're going with those two guys has been productive for both players,” Pagano said. “A guy gets hot, you can always go with the hot hand but I like the way we're doing things now.”

Has Richardson struggled? No question.

But it's too early to throw in the white towel and say general manager Ryan Grigson made a mistake in trading for Richardson. He has six more weeks left in the regular season to prove he's more than a 2.8-yard-per-carry running back.

Mike Wells

ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter

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