The Cleveland Browns were no match for the Eagles in their preseason game a couple of weeks ago, but there’s a chance things could be different this time around because the Browns will have their most potent weapon available on Sunday, rookie running back Trent Richardson.
Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden was no problem for the Birds in the preseason, but the addition of Richardson could provide the Browns with a running game. If Richardson is able to get things going on the ground, it will slow down the Eagles pass rush and force the Philadelphia defense to honor all the run fakes.
Former Eagles offensive coordinator and former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress is the Browns offensive coordinator, so you know he’s going to run the football. Childress always believed in running the football when he was here and when he was coaching Minnesota with Adrian Peterson in the backfield.
He and Andy Reid used to have constructive battles about the game plan because Reid believes in building an offense around throwing the football, while Childress prefers to build an offense around the running game.
Stopping Richardson has to be a big part of the Birds game plan. Eagles rookie outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks knows Richardson quite well.
“I trained with him, so I know his strengths”, Kendricks said the other day in front of his locker at the Nova Care complex. “I watched film on him at Alabama. I haven’t seen him in any film”.
Kendricks was asked where they trained together. “API (Athletes Performance Institute) in Arizona”, he replied. “I got to know him for a couple of months. Good dude, humble. Soft spoken. Works hard.”
Kendricks hasn’t seen him on any film because Richardson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his knee a few weeks ago and hasn’t played since then, but he practiced on Monday and is expected to play on Sunday.
It’s too bad that Kendricks won’t be matched up against Richardson very much on Sunday. During regular defense downs, the rookie linebacker will be asked to follow Browns tight end Ben Watson, while starting WILL linebacker Akeem Jordan will be covering and mirroring Richardson. That might be the case on nickel downs though, but not on regular defense downs.
I can guarantee right now, that Cleveland is going to feature some draws plays against the Eagles pass rush.
Linebacker coach Mike Caldwell needs to start drilling the linebacker right now, especially Jordan that he needs to go clamp Richardson any time he’s in man-to-man and the running backs stays in to pass block. That’s the way they set up a screen. The screen play is going to be featured in the Cleveland game plan.
The screen does numerous very important things for the Browns offense. First, it slows down the Eagles pass rush. Secondly, it’s an easy throw for rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, which will boost his confidence early in a game. Then thirdly, it’s a way of getting the ball into their best ball carrier’s hands in open field.
I think the Kendricks-Richardson matchup would be a great one if the rookie were at WILL because the WILL linebacker is matched up on most plays with the running back. The Eagles rookie linebacker is fast and quick enough to mirror the third pick in the draft, in running plays as a tackler.
Kendricks explodes and strikes the ball carrier when he hits him. He attacks him, blasts him backwards and neutralizes him with his athleticism and aggressiveness. Right now that’s the strength of his game. The cerebral part of the game will come, but he must speed that process up because he’s playing SAM, which is more of a thinking man’s position.
Richardson isn’t much of a receiver, so Kendricks would have little trouble with him, but remember I expect the Browns to get the ball to Richardson on some screens as a way of slowing down the Birds pass rush. The former Alabama running back has a speed advantage on Jordan, but I don’t think he’s much faster than Kendricks.