It’s been a little more than two weeks since Richardson promised a new and improved version of himself for the 2014 season, and so far this preseason, the former No. 3 overall pick has done little to quell the fears of Colts fans, or the team’s front office.
Now, with two weeks left before the regular season, general manager Ryan Grigson has thrown down the gauntlet.
“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.”
Of course, Grigson has as much riding on Richardson’s success as anyone, as he dealt the Colts’ 2014 first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns – who, in turn, flipped that pick to the Eagles to trade up and draft quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Richardson, meanwhile, has been an unmitigated disaster since coming to Indy, averaging 2.9 yards per carry as a Colt last season and failing to bolster a running attack that sorely missed the injured Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw. In two preseason games this August, Richardson has continued to struggle, averaging 2.4 yards a carry and not recording a carry longer than eight yards.
Grigson has seemingly doubled down on Richardson as the team’s bell cow, though, allowing Donald Butler (537 yards and six touchdowns on 102 carries in 2013) to leave via free agency and not picking up any halfbacks of consequence in the offseason. Ballard is once again out for the year with injury, and Bradshaw has yet to play this preseason while returning from neck surgery. The only other backs on the roster are Daniel Herron (9 career carries) and rookie David Fluellen, acquired in a trade with the Eagles this week.
Head coach Chuck Pagano thinks Richardson will fare better running out of the shotgun, the formation from which Richardson notched both of his eight-yard carries this preseason.
“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.”
Considering the pick the Colts gave up to get him, as well as the lack of many other viable options on the roster, there’s little chance Richardson is a casualty of the upcoming cut dates, even if he continues to max out at “two yards and a cloud of dust.” But the Colts may have more trouble repeating as AFC South champions if Andrew Luck continues to be the most fleet-footed member of the team’s backfield.