INDIANAPOLIS -- Look at Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson's preseason rushing statistics and you probably want to climb to the top of the nearest mountain and scream, “Here we go again!” at the top of your lungs.
Richardson has rushed for 34 yards on 14 attempts in two preseason games. That’s 2.4 yards a carry, which is even less than the 2.9 yards he averaged last season when he lost his starting job after being acquired from the Cleveland Browns.
Coach Chuck Pagano isn’t ready to join you at the top of the mountain, but he’s not kidding himself, either. He knows they need to run the ball better. It's a necessity that the Colts provide something on the ground to help open things up on the outside for quarterback Andrew Luck.
“I think everybody wants this guy to get going and that guy to get going, but there’s some tough sledding right now and we’re working at it,” Pagano said. “I think having the capability to do the other thing is going to open things up in the run game for us.”
The pass Richardson and the Colts got last year because the running back was acquired during the season is gone. He had the entire offseason to learn the offense, he’s comfortable with Luck, and he said he’s in exceptional health.
Now it’s time for the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 to produce on the field.
“Trent, he needs to answer the bell and do his job to the best of his ability,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. “We’re all accountable here. I will say this, there are a lot of backs last year that wouldn’t have got [2.4] considering the amount of people he had in that box and the amount of bodies that were hitting him before he even seemed to get the ball sometimes. He’s such a hard runner, we know how tough he is, but he’s got to produce just like all these guys do on this final 53.”
Richardson’s first run of the preseason was for 8 yards, giving the indication that good things were to come with him. But he gained only 26 yards since then. The New York Giants, according to Pagano, loaded up the box on more than 20 of the first 30 plays of their preseason game last weekend. Richardson’s two longest runs -- 8 yards each -- came with Luck in the shotgun. Richardson's running with better instincts. It's just not showing up in the results, which is the determining factor.
“I think any time for any back, not only Trent, I think any time you spread people out and you’re in one-back situations, you’re in the gun,” Pagano said. “Everything’s dictated on what the defense presents. If they give you a light box, it doesn’t matter who’s in there, you’re going to have an opportunity to gain some yards. … It kind of depends on how the defense decides to defend you. If they go light box and they spread things out, I think for any runner he’s going to have an opportunity to gain more yards. First and second down, you can do the same thing. If they want to drop a safety down like this team likes to do, you’re still going to be, get a hat on a hat, you’re still going to have to get things blocked up and make a guy miss probably on his own.”
The verdict still can’t be determined with Richardson because he has played limited snaps in the preseason and the Colts haven’t had their full arsenal of weapons on offense. Receiver Reggie Wayne and running back Ahmad Bradshaw have yet to play in the preseason. The Colts are also dealing with injuries at guard and center.
“When Reggie’s out there, and T.Y. and Hakeem, you can’t double all of them,” Richardson said. “To have them with us, especially when Ahmad comes back, it’s going to be dangerous, and I like the direction we’re going in. I’m just proud to be able to be where we’re at right now. I know there’s still a lot to come and still a lot to work on. When it comes down to it, we’re just a work in progress right now.”