Colts Acquire Trent Richardson: What Will His Role Be Against the 49ers?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY |

In one of the more surprising and shocking trades of recent memory, the Indianapolis Colts made a blockbuster trade by acquiring Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft, for a 2014 first-round draft pick. The Colts acquired him just days before their Week 3 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, a team facing an early season turning point game after their blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week. With little time with his new team, how will Trent Richardson play into the Colts' offensive game plan and how will this impact the 49ers' defensive plan

Power running game

The Colts have been and will continue to be a power running team. A point of emphasis since training camp, they want to cut down on the number of throws quarterback Andrew Luck has to make this season. At 225 pounds, Richardson fits this mold quite well and he'll fit right in as a punishing runner inside who can take the ball, slam it between the tackles and push the pile for the gritty yards.

Playing time

According to Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, Richardson will play "as much as he can handle" in his debut. After preparing for Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown at the start of the week, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now expects to see Richardson the most in the backfield.

"A lot of times when you have a trade like this during the season, it's with a guy who's holding out or something and he's really not ready to go," Fangio said. "This guy is ready to go. I expect him to play a bunch on Sunday."

Since the Colts and Browns use similar run plays and pass-protections, Fangio believes they'll be a quick transition into the role, meaning he could easily be the main guy in the Colts backfield Sunday.

Running back rotation

Assuming he gets the lion's share of the carries on Sunday, regardless of whether he starts or not, Richardson will be the featured back against the 49ers. Initially viewed as the Colts' clear-cut starter once they placed Vick Ballard on injured reserve with a torn ACL, Bradshaw becomes the team's No. 2 back who will likely relieve Richardson for a series or two and sometimes play on third downs. Familiar with this role during his time with the New York Giants, this is a more natural fit for Bradshaw.

As for Brown, he's essentially out of a role on the team and will have little effect on the game. Poor on passing downs both in pass blocking and as a receiver, Richardson and Bradshaw are better options for both of those running back skill sets.

Planning for the rest of the Colts offense

With the addition of Richardson, the Colts offense significantly improves as a whole. Similar to when former Colts president Bill Polian drafted Edgerrin James in 1999 to pair with a young budding quarterback in Peyton Manning, current Colts general manager Ryan Grigson acquired Richardson to solidify the team's running game, pair with Andrew Luck and make their offense balanced both in the air and on the ground.

Known more for their dynamic passing game thanks to Luck's abilities and targets like Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener, the Colts offense provides a viable passing game that has not been present in Cleveland since the Braylon Edwards days. Opposing defenses will not be able to stack the box like they did when Richardson was on the Browns, making Richardson a dangerous player if not prepared for properly.

In turn, they'll be less pressure on the targets Luck throws to when Richardson's on the field. Since he's also a good pass protector, the 49ers will need to work harder to apply pressure on Luck if they want to disrupt his rhythm and put less pressure on their secondary. Even before the acquisition of Richardson, the 49ers defense have known about the Colts' focus on their rushing game this season, so they'll hopefully be prepared for any back Indianapolis puts on the field.

As witnessed against a team like the Seahawks that are multidimensional on offense, the 49ers will have a long game if they're unable to stifle one or all aspects of the Colts offense.

Austin Chang is a San Francisco Bay Area-based sports writer covering the San Francisco 49ers for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is the Associate Editor of Sports Out West and works for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow this contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball
View Comments