After two straight years in which the Cleveland Browns drafted defensive players with their first two picks, the team addressed the offense in 2012. Prior to drafting quarterback
Richardson started 15 of the team’s 16 games, despite missing most of training camp and all of the preseason while recovering from knee surgery. He also fought through a rib injury and rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on 267 carries.
In addition to his rushing abilities, Richardson was a major contributor in the passing game. He led the team in receptions for 15 weeks and ended the season with the second-most catches, 51, for 367 yards and one touchdown.
When Richardson was hampered by injuries throughout the season or needed a break in the game, third-year veteran
Hardesty rushed for a career-best 271 yards and one touchdown on 65 carries. His average yards per rush increased from 3.0 in 2011 to 4.2 in 2012, the best of any Browns player with at least 20 carries.
Hardesty’s best game came in the Browns’ first win of the season, a 34-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Oct. 14. With Richardson in and out of the game because of a rib injury, Hardesty rushed for 56 yards and his first career touchdown on 15 carries. Hardesty’s touchdown run, a one-yard jump over the offensive and defensive linemen, gave the Browns a 20-14 lead and initiated a 21-point fourth quarter.
As a team, the Browns rushed for 1,593 yards, 12 touchdowns and an average of 4.0 yards per carry on 396 attempts. The Browns improved their total yardage, touchdowns and yards per carry totals from a season ago, when they rushed for 1,531 yards, four touchdowns, and 3.7 yards per carry on 415 attempts.
In 15 games, Richardson broke or tied six Browns’ rookie records.
His 950 rushing yards beat the previous record of 942 set by Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown in 1957. Richardson’s 11 touchdowns broke Brown’s club record of nine. Richardson scored 12 total touchdowns and also passed the mark of Brown and Browns Legend, Eric Metcalf, who both had 10 scores, Brown in 1957 and Metcalf in 1989. The 12 touchdowns gave Richardson 72 points scored, second-most on the team in 2012 and the most ever by a Browns rookie. Jerry Kauric set the previous record with 66 points scored in 1990.
Between rushing and passing, Richardson totaled 1,317 yards, nearly 300 yards more than Metcalf gained in 1989 (633 rushing, 397 receiving).
Richardson’s three 100-yard rushing games tied William Green’s 2002 total for the most ever by a Browns rookie.
Richardson finished third among NFL rookies in rushing yards, total yards, fifth in rushing first downs, and tied for second in rushing touchdowns and points scored.
With a touchdown against the New York Giants, Richardson became the first Browns player since Peyton Hillis in 2010 -- and the only rookie in team history -- to rush for a score in four consecutive games. He achieved the feat again when he rushed for one touchdown each against the Pittsburgh Steelers (Nov. 25) and at the Oakland Raiders (Dec. 2), as well as two scores against Kansas City (Dec. 9) and Washington (Dec. 16).
During Richardson’s second stretch of four consecutive games with a touchdown, the Browns had a three-game winning streak.
What To Watch For:
Richardson having the ability to play at full strength.
During his post-regular season press conference, Richardson talked about what he expects out of himself for the coming year after playing through the rib injury for much of his rookie season. While he said the knee surgery that wiped out much of his first NFL training camp and all of the preseason, Richardson said it was the rib injury that had the biggest affect on him.
In his introductory press conference, new Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said he would like to have a balanced offense.
“Balance, to me, means you can run it when you need to run it to win, you can throw it when you need to throw it to win,” Chudzinski said. “In this league, you have to be able to win games in different ways.”