Trent Richardson: Don't Start the Browns Running Back in Week 1

Do something Trent Richardson was not able to do in preseason games in 2012 — run!

Run from starting the Cleveland Browns’ rookie running back in any capacity in Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Take away the fact that a knee injury kept him off the field during the four preseason games. Take away that it was his second knee surgery in six months. Take away that he has been limited in practice this week leading up to his highly anticipated debut.

Richardson’s knee is an issue — one that allowed him to participate in just the first 10 days of training camp — but what surrounds his team in this game is the bigger issue.

The issues are these:

Quarterback Brandon Weeden. No proven pass catchers. A Browns run defense that was eighth-worst against fantasy running backs. Facing an Eagles team that was a top-13 fantasy team at the quarterback (9), running back (12), receiver (9), tight end (13) and defense (8) positions last season.

They are all issues because you have an already unhealthy back that should be in no position to succeed in a game where the Eagles should lead comfortably.

Weeden is a rookie himself and will face one of the deepest pass rushing groups in the league — one that tied for a league-leading 50 sacks a season ago. Cleveland was 23rd in the league with 162 receptions from its receivers and ranked second to last with eight touchdowns from that group.

There are plenty more playmakers on the Philadelphia side that have the oddsmakers favoring the Eagles by nine.  Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and the Eagles defense/special teams will be the ones coming out of this game in a favorable fantasy light.

The only plus for Richardson is that the Eagles were 24th against fantasy RBs last season. But were he cleared to play, it is expected that it would be in a limited capacity. Maybe he would be better served to make his debut against rival Cincinnati next week and its 16th-ranked fantasy defense against running backs from a year ago. Or better yet, get fully healthy and take on a Buffalo defense in Week 3 that, while they have bolstered their roster on that side of the ball, were 29th against fantasy backs last season. 

If you drafted Richardson — which you probably did pretty early — you don’t want to see him on the sideline long. But you also don’t want to see him on the field too soon and suffer another setback. Sit him, as the Browns should this week and get ready for the Bengals.

As an aside, the Browns are 1-11-1 against the spread in season openers.

—by Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

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