Back in May, former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown said he wasn’t impressed with his former team’s first-round draft pick, running back Trent Richardson.
“I’m not overwhelmed with it,” Brown told Tony Grossi. “The problem is that he’s ordinary. I think he’s ordinary.”
When asked what was ordinary, Brown said, “the size, the speed, his moves.”
Richardson, 5-9¼, 228, was the third overall pick of the draft after rushing for 1,679 yards as a junior at Alabama.
“He’ll work hard for you, and he’s kind of an all-around back,” Brown said. “But if you look at Cleveland, I would have gotten me a couple of receivers.”
Richardson has gone on to prove Brown wrong – or at least Brown admitted he was wrong in September. Through 10 games, Richardson has rushed for 670 yards to lead AFC rookies.
Despite dealing with a painful rib injury, Richardson has averaged 107.3 yards rushing in the last three games. He’s second to Doug Martin among NFL rookies with 959 yards from scrimmage.
“I was hopeful that the legendary Jim Brown was correct in his initial assessment of Richardson, but I am disappointed,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. “This guy is a talented runner. He has great contact balance. He is strong willed. He is highly productive. He has a downhill run demeanor. He finishes off runs. He has soft hands. He is their leading receiver as well. He is their feature ball carrier. He really is just living up to the expectations that come with being as high of a draft pick that he is. He is good for them in all circumstances, first, second and third-down, short yardage, goal line and in the red area. … He is as good as advertised.”
Except by Jim Brown.
Brown was right in saying the Browns needed help at wide receiver, and it appears they found one in Josh Gordon, a second-round pick in the Supplemental Draft.
Gordon replaced an injured Mohamed Massaquoi in Game 4 and hasn’t left the lineup. Gordon ranks second among NFL rookies with 470 receiving yards on 24 catches. His 19.6 yards-per-catch average ranks third in the NFL.
The Browns have three other rookie starters besides Gordon and Richardson: quarterback Brandon Weeden, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (hasn’t missed an offensive snap) and outside linebacker James-Michael Johnson (21 tackles, 1 forced fumble)
Weeden, a 29-year-old rookie, has 2,298 passing yards, the third-most ever by an NFL rookie through the first 10 games of the season (Andrew Luck, Cam Newton). Weeden needs 150 yards to break Tom Couch’s team rookie record.
Couch and the 2-14 Browns beat the Steelers his rookie season, 16-15, in 1999.
Overall, the Browns have received 54 starts from rookies this season, a figure that accounts for 24.5 percent of the total starts.
OLDER THAN DIRT (BUT NOT BATCH)
At his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin said he met Browns kicker Phil Dawson back when Tomlin interned with the Browns back in 1999.
Dawson was a rookie that season and he’s still going strong. He’s made 25 consecutive field goals, the longest active streak in the NFL. He’s 19 for 19 this year, including five from 50 yards or longer.
Dawson’s had two career game-winning kicks against the Steelers: in 1999 to make Couch winner, and in 2000 to beat the Kent Graham-lead Steelers, 23-20.
Dawson, who’ll turn 38 in January, needs five more field goals to become the 25th kicker to convert 300.