Are the Browns overrating their own running backs?

How much of the plan includes Brandon Jackson in 2012?

One thing that persists as a dark cloud over the Browns is the wide receiver situation from last season. The Browns drafted Greg Little and brought in Jordan Norwood, but the statements that will forever hang in the air are words of confidence in a depth chart featuring Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie at the top. Of course MoMass suffered through some injuries and went on to combine with a battered Colt McCoy for a pretty bad passing attack while Robiskie was cut loose altogether. I still have hopes for Massaquoi when he’s cast in the right spot in the offense, but there’s really no doubting that overall Tom Heckert and company mis-read the abilities of the receiver group as a whole a season ago. When Brian Robiskie got cut, it was pretty much an admission of guilt by the Browns brass, I think. Which brings me to the question about running backs coming into 2012. The Browns have let Peyton Hillis go without much fight and they are rumored to like Trent Richardson, but what do you think they’re thinking for real with regard to their own depth chart? I have a sneaking suspicion that their confidence level is higher in the existing crew than fans might think. If I am right, I think the Browns could be headed for another mistake.

In fairness, my inkling could be totally false. The draft season is the season for misdirection, obviously. The Browns were reportedly impressed by Trent Richardson. Also even if they bypass Richardson or miss out on him with the fourth pick, they’ll have chances at some other pretty highly ranked running backs. Point being, I might be sounding the alarm for no reason. But follow me for a bit.

The Browns still like Montario Hardesty. I’m convinced of it. I’m also convinced that they’re giving Hardesty something of a mulligan for last season. The retrofitted goal after last year was for Hardesty to play through a year relatively healthily. Hardesty only played in ten games, but considering that he was coming off ACL surgery, it was a pretty healthy year. As far as we can tell, there were no new serious injuries introduced. Also, ACL patients are notorious for being back on the field and then “being back” for real six months to a year later. Say what you want about Braylon Edwards, but his recovery from ACL surgery was a thing to behold. It isn’t that quick for most guys.

I have had two ACL surgeries so I can attest to the fact that even though you’re back running and cutting 6-8 months after surgery, you probably don’t hit full speed for a full year at least. Granted my “full speed” was a fraction of Hardesty’s in order to play in the NFL, but I think my experience is still applicable. If I had to guess, I would think that the Browns, their medical staff and Tom Heckert are very optimistic that Montario Hardesty will have his best chance to be the player they drafted this upcoming season. That thought could give them a (false?) sense of security at the spot and keep them from drafting Richardson.

In another area, I think the Browns feel as if they did sign a free agent this off-season in a way. Brandon Jackson never made it out of training camp when he contracted turf toe. The Browns say he is healthy and ready to go this season. While he may not be a guy that you and I want to hang our hats on, you have to think the guys who felt the need to sign him last year still value him pretty greatly as a major contributor for the 2012 season. To the Browns side of the ledger it is in fact another contract year for Jackson, which is something.

After that you have Chris Ogbonnaya who had two pretty good games in four starts against the Rams and Jags. Don’t count me in the camp that wants to have to count on Ogbonnaya this upcoming season, but I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t want him on the depth chart. He showed some small flashes and at least could be counted on to protect in the passing game.

You also have Eddie Williams with two career attempts in three NFL seasons. None of those attempts occurred last year or with the Browns at all. Armond Smith who I’ve overrated myself after seeing him in training camp last season is still in my plans, but even I can’t speak his name with regard to the depth chart with a straight face at this point.

That doesn’t mean that the Browns aren’t feeling pretty good about the prospects of Hardesty, Jackson and Ogbonnaya. Certainly their inability to sniff out busts in the receiving game a year ago at least open the door to entertain the fear. And fear is the right word, I think. The Browns have decent depth at running back, but no answers. I won’t pin the Browns to a failing grade if they don’t get Trent Richardson in the upcoming draft, but I do have my fears that the Browns won’t address the running back position seriously enough this off-season.

  • mgbode

    we’ll know in a week and a half.  I fully expect the Browns to come out of it with Richardson, Miller, Wilson, Martin, or Polk.  If so, I think we are fine at RB.

  • Great take on the Browns backfield. I am not going to be upset if Richardson isn’t our pick at 4, but if a RB isn’t taken with one of our first 3 picks (along with a WR and RT) then I will be extremely frustrated and confused. Go Browns!!

  • I also forgot to express my disgust with the Browns for just letting Hillis go. I still think that was an awful idea.

  • Humboldt

     I agree. Obviously that ship had sailed for Heckert long ago, but Hillis could have really been a useful asset in the rebuild.

    That said, what we’re left with is a stable of middling running backs, with Hardesty probably having the highest ceiling.  No one on our current roster has the dynamic skillset Richardson appears to have. With his ability to run, block, and catch, his value is likely amplified in a WCO, which confounds the NFL orthodoxy of picking a running back high. 

    I say grab Richardson and get another offensive weapon at 22. Give the fan base something to get excited about.

  • Mark

    I’m with you on this. I’d be floored if we didn’t draft a RB. If the get one of the guys you mentioned, I think the RB position is ok.

  • Mark

    I might remind you that Hillis took a 1 year deal. For only 3 million. To be a back up. If that’s not saying the rest of the NFL wasn’t interested in him too, I don’t know what does. Letting him go was a good decision. Clearly he was viewed as a headache by the whole league.

  • Humboldt

    I’d say the jury is still out on this, Mark. Just because other teams didn’t rush to sign Hillis doesn’t prove anything about his abilities. Tom Brady was certainly rejected by every NFL team 6 times over but clearly this said more about flawed GM decision-making than about Brady’s talent. (btw, I fully realize that Tom Brady draft references are close to becoming the rhetorical equivalent of analogies to Nazi Germany in political debates).

    That said, I wish Hillis well. He was a great player for us in 2010 and I think lots of us had visions of him running the ball in January (in a brown jersey), with snow swirling off Lake Erie.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    What running backs?  One was hurt never played another got hurt and barely played and another one they picked up off the scap heap.  Yea I’d say they need a legitimate RB.

  • Mansoor Khan

    I truly hope that Hardesty comes back better this year and can become our lead back. Not really because I like him, just because that would mean that I would no longer have any problems with Heckert’s drafting with the Browns. 

    I hope he can stay healthy. Do I expect him to? Well… I’m really a fan of fast running backs. If we don’t pick up a speed guy somewhere at sometime, I’ll be mildly disappointed. 

  • hillis is definitely a beast when healthy and not fumbling.

    so… 10% beast, right?

  • Mark

    I agree with you that the lack of demand for Hillis’ services does prove anything on his abilities. However, it does saying something about how he was viewed throughout the league – an injury prone head case. My only point is that it’s hard to believe he was some sort of savior for the Browns but Heckert was just too dumb to recognize it when the rest of the NFL viewed Hillis in the same terms the Browns did.

    I have no problem letting him go. Replacing him is the key.

  • mgbode

    so it’s a good thing that this year’s draft is deep in RBs.

  • Garry_Owen

    I would love to see us get Wilson.  I prefer him at #22, #37, or through a trade to another spot, than Richardson at #4. 

  • mgbode

    Yeah, I am all about a trade down out of #4 at this point.  And then use our extra picks (through the trade down and others) to be able to move up from where we need to get our targeted players.

    I like the quantity of guys in the first 2 rounds (and at some positions like OLB, OG, etc. beyond) more than the very tippy top of the draft.  That smells trade-down to me if another team doesn’t feel that way (and will provide enough value).

  • crobarred

     I don’t know about Hardesty.  He is timid and doesn’t try to bowl people over.  He tries spinning out of every tackle.  With a bad OL he needs to try to put his head down more to get positive yardage instead of dance around.  Even with Hardesty and B Jackson adding a 200 carry back would be a good thing.  Especially one that can catch out of the backfield.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It’s a good thing it’s deep in most offensive positions because other then TE the Browns could use just about one of everything.

  • Markn95

    I was under the impression the Browns signed Jackson last year strictly as a third-down back.  That idea had potential when it looked like Hillis would be taking the majority of the carries on 1st and 2nd downs.  That’s obviously out the window for 2012 and if they think Jackson will take over as a feature back, I shudder to think what the games will look like this year.  This was a guy surrounded by elite QB and WR talent in Green Bay who lost his spot to James Freaking Starks during the Packers’ Super Bowl run.  When you consider the guys around him he was probably the worst starting RB inn the NFL in 2010.  He stinks.

  • Jaker

    This draft has about potentially 5-6 starting RB’s so even though I would love T-Rich, it doesn’t end after him. David Wilson, Doug Martin, Robert Turbin, Isiah Pead and LaMichael James are all RB’s who I think can be very successful in the NFL. Draft Day trade involving Hardesty or Jackson???

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    “Are the Browns overrating their own running backs?”

    It’d certainly be difficult to underrate them, no?

  • Big Z

    Anyone else find it disheartening that most of us fans can see that the likes of Massaquoi, Norwood, and Hardesty aren’t going to cut it, yet we’ll be forced to watch them sink our team for yet another year?

  • floydrubino

    Other than Joe Thomas I don’t think anyone would want any of our linemen. I know there will be a couple of you that will say Mack is good but the only reason why I want to give him a chance is we invested such a high pick in him. He is average at best and Cleveland has one of the worst lines in the league. How we have the best left tackle in football and our line is the worst in the league baffles the mind. Peyton Hillis played well a couple years ago because Steinbach and Thomas played well together that year. Get a line and draft a Turbin, James, or Pead later and draft a running back next year after we load up on o-linemen.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I don’t know that they’re content so much as they aren’t in a rush. There are a number of good free agent RBs available, so the Browns can decide what they’re doing as the draft goes and then if they choose not to take a RB (for whatever reason – better players available or not happy with who’s left) they can sign a Benson or Addai or even trade a couple late picks for Stewart. RB is not a position that will be difficult to upgrade the next three weeks.

  • Natedawg86

    We wouldn’t get anything for them.  Both have been injured, why not take a risk on a rookie instead of trying to retread these guys if you are not CLE?

  • Natedawg86

    Cut Massaquoi, give Norwood and Hardesty a shot and see how they look this summer

  • BenRM

    I certainly wouldn’t be against drafting Richardson. I think he’s a beast. But some of the points you made here combined with the fact that Claiborne is the “smart” choice (and awesome in his own right) makes me think they will go that direction.

  • BenRM

    I don’t think the jury is still out. He’s a good back. He’s a very injury prone back. And he was an absolute head case last season. 

    I think it is safe to draw conclusions from the fact that his own team didn’t want him and that a 1 year deal as a back up was the best deal he was offered.(Assuming he took the best deal that was offered).

  • Mansoor Khan

    In his defense, he’s coming off an ACL injury. He probably didn’t 100% trust his legs. I certainly don’t. 

  • mgbode

    we’ll need a TE next offseason too though.   Watson’s concussion injuries are worrisome and Moore hasn’t proven he can block (and Cameron is supposed to be another Moore).

  • mgbode

    why cut MoMass to do that?   just give the WRs an equal shot at playing time and see who stands out.  

  • mgbode

    our OL is not anywhere near the worst in the league. 

  • porckchopexpress

    I just don’t get your Mack hate.  The guy had an apendectomy in the middle of the freaking season.  Do you think that maybe, just maybe, that might cause a slippage in play? I’m sure you are the type of warrior that would just walk through such a surgery and be back at top form the next day, but mortals like Mack need time to heal.  I mean on top of calling protection for a brand new offense with no time to prepare, and having a rookie on one side and a second year guy on the other.  I’m just saying your opinion is in the distinct minority, I don’t think you would find many people in the business of football who agree with you.

  • porckchopexpress

    And on the subject aren’t you the one that said t7hat 1st round linmen don’t bust?  I’ve already given you 2 of the past 7 years where the top linemen busted, if you are adding Mack’s draft that puts 3 of 7 years in the bust category.  So linemen have a nearly 50% bust rate in the 1st round yet you believe its the best place to take them?  Like Robert Downey says in Air America; “Just because a theory is wrong is no reason to give up on it.” 

  • C-Bus Kevin

    I think we’ve read the book on MoMass, and it ends with a cut. On the other hand, I think Norwood has the potential to be a good slot receiver. He’s got some good cutting ability that helps him get yards after the catch.

    Hardesty…well…what do you say about a guy that you’re pretty sure they never should have taken in the first place. I think the first RB the Browns draft will slide MoHard into the backup role permanently, which might be the best thing for him (lower carry volume…fresher legs).

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Robiskie…ugh. I just don’t know how they looked at that guy and said, “He’s no MoMass (but how many are…am I right?), but he’s the best option we have for wr2, and that includes free agents.”

  • Old coach

    I say take Richardson.  I have little faith in what is there now.  I’d have Hardesty on a VERY short leash, if he doesn’t produce big time and do so quickly, I say, cut your losses and let him go.  I’d cut MoMas or at the very least, demote him to something like the 5th receiver.  I’d give Norwood another year to see what he can do, I haven’t given up on him yet.  No matter what, I’d grab Richardson in a heartbeat.  The scenario that would REALLY make me vomit is if they pass on Richardson and use that #4 pick on Tannehill (or any other QB for that matter.)  That would go down in history as one of the biggest wasted picks EVER.  Just my 2 cents worth.

  • ericsaxalto

    I second those fears.  I was never very happy with the Hardesty pick given the number and severity of prior injuries.  I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see him having a break out year. I’m afraid that the front office will overvalue what they have at running back and pass on Trent Richardson.  I feel like the talent level at receiver in this year’s draft is too deep to make that the 4th overall pick.  While at the same time the running back talent takes a very steep drop beyond Richardson.  Wait and see.

  • floydrubino

    Picking a center in the 1st unless he is an absolute beast is stupid. Mangini forced the Mack pick because he picked Manigold and had so much success. I never once said pick a center unless he is a freak like Pouncey I want them to pick guards and a tackle. You just can’t pick anybody and you have to pick the right guy so I think it’s funny you think I mean you can just pick anyone early that’s a linemen and find success. And way to read the comment when I said I wanted to give Mack another year to see what he can prove. And my opinion being in the minority is refreshing to me seeing what you guys post. Your stats are comical but regardless it doesn’t change the fact that you need to have a great o-line. Of course there is going to be busts taken in the 1st we have people like you assessing talent where mistakes are easily made.

  • I agree with you about all of these guys except MoMass. While I do not think he is bad, I think he lacks confidence. He’s never went up for the ball. He’s never fought for it. He can catch it if it’s delivered right to him but he’s always seemed timid. To me, I think he should be the odd man out. Decent trade bait. I don’t mind him though. Good hands, great concentration, good awareness and seems to run good routes. Just missing that extra something to make him a number one receiver.