2012 Position Preview: Running Back

Posted Jul 9, 2012

Over the next few weeks, will take a look at the 2012 Browns, position-by-position. Today’s spotlight is on the Browns running backs.


After being riddled by injuries at running back during the 2011 season, the Browns focused on that position during the offseason.

Besides selecting Trent Richardson with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft last April, the Browns also signed free agent Adonis Thomas from the University of Toledo. Thomas signed a tryout contract with the Browns for their rookie minicamp and impressed the coaches so much that they rewarded him with a contract.

The injury problems last season started when Brandon Jackson missed the entire season with ligament damage in his toe. Jackson was injured in the preseason after the Browns signed him as a free agent from the Green Bay Packers and after that, the team struggled to have a full complement of running backs throughout the year.

In the team’s third game last fall, Montario Hardesty earned his first career start in relief of Peyton Hillis. Hillis -- who rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 61 catches for 477 yards and two scores in 2010 -- missed the game with an illness and Hardesty ran for a then-career high 67 yards on 14 carries.

After Hillis suffered an injury early in a loss at Oakland (Oct. 16), Hardesty again moved into the starting lineup and rushed for 95 yards on 33 carries in a 6-3 Browns win against the Seattle Seahawks (Oct. 23).

However, the success Hardesty experienced against the Seahawks was short-lived, as he was injured after two carries at San Francisco (Oct. 30) the following week. He then missed the next four games due to a calf injury.

With Hillis and Hardesty ailing, the Browns signed Chris Ogbonnaya off the Houston Texans’ practice squad. Ogbonnaya proved to be a difference maker as he rushed for 90 yards on 19 carries against the St. Louis Rams (Nov. 13) and followed it up with a 115-yard, one-touchdown performance in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars (Nov. 20).

Hillis came back into the fold at Cincinnati (Nov. 27) and rushed for 99 yards with one touchdown at the Arizona Cardinals (Dec. 18). He gained 112 yards on 24 attempts at Baltimore (Dec. 24), his second career 100-yard game against the vaunted Ravens defense.

Key Number:


As a team, the Browns combined for 1,531 yards and four touchdowns on 415 carries last season. The 3.7 yards-per-carry average was more than a half-yard less than their opponents gained in the 16-game season.

Browns opponents gained 2,359 yards and scored 12 touchdowns on 534 carries. They averaged 4.4 yards-per-carry with a long run of 67 yards.

Player to Watch:


The 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist ran for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2011, both University of Alabama school records. Richardson also caught a career-high 29 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in his junior season at Alabama.

Despite two years of splitting carries with Mark Ingram -- a Heisman Trophy winner in his own right and current member of the New Orleans Saints -- Richardson gained 3,130 yards and scored 35 touchdowns on 540 career carries. Richardson, who played in 38 games with 15 starts, caught 68 career passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns.

As a sophomore, Richardson returned 24 kickoffs for 634 yards and one touchdown.

“For me, I know I want to be in the Hall of Fame and I want to be one of the most talked-about running backs in the NFL that has ever played the game when I get done with my career,” Richardson said at the 2012 NFL Rookie Symposium. “I want my name to always be remembered in a good way, not in a dumb way, not in a crazy way. For me, I’m always going to work hard and make sure my standards are set high. My goals are always set higher.”

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