Travelling to San Francisco to take on one of the league’s top run defenses just three days after being acquired,Trent Richardson was never expected to have a big first week as a Colt. He didn’t, rushing 13 times for 35 yards. But his second week? Against a Jaguars’ run defense that entered Week 4 allowing 167.7 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry? He was expected to go off. To look like the player that two separate teams have now made a first-round investment in. But once again, he didn’t. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. With no Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) around to siphon carries, T-Rich got the rock 20 times on the ground, but somehow managed only 60 yards against a Run D that made Darren McFadden look “back” in Week 2.
Film review reveals it certainly isn’t a talent issue. T-Rich is built like a fullback, but still looks every bit his 4.48 40-yard dash time once he gets a head of steam. And when he gets a head of steam … man, he’s hard to bring down. Even Sunday he was ping-ponging off of defenders, and dragging them with him when he wasn’t running headlong into a 5-6 man pile. But here’s where we arrive at our problem: T-Rich was running into too many piles. There were many reasons why. Although not sub-par, the Colts’ run blocking was far from stellar. OC Pep Hamilton was also getting too cute. He seemingly wanted to get Richardson up to speed on every play in the playbook, while too many of his zone-blocking calls took too long to develop. At one point, CBS play-by-play man Kevin Harlan quipped that Richardson was “going to see every play in this playbook, isn’t he.”
But much like T-Rich’s talent, neither the Colts’ blocking nor play-calling were ultimately the issue: It was T-Rich’s head. In a nutshell, he was taking too many “thinking steps.” Too often, T-Rich took the rock and then stood around with it, letting the defense come to him instead of taking the fight to the defense. On one hand, it’s admirable that a runner so violent at heart could be so patient. But while T-Rich was thinking about where to take the rock, the defense was penetrating. More often than not, it resulted in 2-3 yard runs for a player who very much has the ability to average five yards per carry. T-Rich is simply giving the defense too much time to react. He needs to turn off his brain and just go. Occasionally, it’s going to result in some “brick wall” runs. But T-Rich is fast enough to hit the hole before the defense knows what hit them, and strong enough to drag them once he does.
No matter what Richardson does Sunday, it’s going to be tough sledding against the Seahawks’ run defense. Pete Carroll’s ground unit is tougher than the numbers (4.1 yards per carry, 109 yards per game) suggest. Richardson isn’t going to be a new runner overnight. But he could learn more on the sideline than he does on the field. All he needs to do is watch his Seattle counterpart Marshawn Lynch, who hits the hole first and asks questions later. Richardson has Beast Mode’s violence. He just needs to start using it as soon as he gets the rock, and not once he’s in the company of four defenders.