Six days. That’s how long the Browns have in between their first preseason game last Friday, and the second contest Thursday in Green Bay. For a number of Browns (and their fans) that six days probably seems like an eternity.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden is in that group, anxious to put his first performance in the rear view mirror. Weeden could silence (for a while anyways) a lot of ridiculous conversations with a strong performance against the Packers. Count Mitchell Schwartz in that group looking to improve on last week’s performance as well.
One other player that should be interested in making his mark on one of these preseason games is Montario Hardesty.
We’ve heard, and seen for ourselves Montario Hardesty having a good camp. Strong practices. But we’ve always heard that about Hardesty. He is a very good practice player. Unfortunately for Hardesty, he hasn’t had a game to match.
His best performance in a game so far is debatable. He rushed for 95 yards in the win over Seattle last year, but it took him 33 carries to get there. That was the only game in which he carried the ball more than 15 times. Against the Dolphins he had 67 yards on 14 attempts. He has not scored a TD in a regular season game. (His lone TD came in a preseason game against the Bears in 2010.)
Obviously, the Browns have a lot invested in first round pick Trent Richardson. If Richardson turns out to be the player that the Browns think he is, Hardesty won’t see many carries per game this year either. That is why this preseason could be Hardesty’s best shot to prove he belongs in this league.
Last season, 53 players qualified for the rushing title. To qualify, a runner needed 100 attempts. All of those 53 players had a higher per carry average than Hardesty. If Montario wants to be considered for a back-up role, he has to produce more when he’s on the field.
The Browns, and Montario are hoping that two years removed from ACL surgery should mean the knee is finally ready to go, and mentally Hardesty trusts it to make the cuts needed. Beyond the knee injury, Hardesty needs to show improved vision and decision making.
It’s kind of hard to believe, but because of injury, Hardesty has only played 10 regular season games and 3 preseason games despite being drafted in 2010. That’s less than a full season of experience, which is why the Browns might still have hope that the 25 year old can live up to the potential Tom Heckert saw in him at Tennessee.
Montario should know that if he keeps working hard and produces on the field it will eventually be rewarded. He sat on the sidelines while Peyton Hillis ran wild with the opportunity afforded him due to Hardesty’s knee.
We’ve heard about the next man up philosophy a lot already this preseason.
This time, the next man up is Hardesty.