The season-long mystery of what’s gone wrong with running back Trent Richardson reached a new low in the Indianapolis Colts’ 45-44 win against the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC Wild-Card game last Saturday.
Richardson fumbled on his only carry of the game, the first of his career in the postseason. He saw minimal action after that point. So, what has happened to the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft? Has a trade to Indianapolis and a change of scheme completely altered his skillset?
Richardson, 23, played with broken ribs for 10 games and still totaled more than 1,300 yards and scored 12 touchdowns in 2012. His toughness can’t be questioned, but he seems to be playing a little tight.
‘The fumble in the playoff game last week epitomizes Trent and what’s going on," Richardson’s mentor and high school coach Derrick Boyd told FOXSports.com this week. "Trent was running a toss sweep and he was looking for a home run. He took the sweep and didn’t take it straight to the edge. He took the sweep and immediately he was looking for a cutback.
"That run symbolizes how the season has gone and what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to make a whole lot happen in a lickity split because your last performance is the one they remember the most. And unfortunately it went totally the opposite way."
Boyd, who maintains a tight relationship with Richardson, works with the running back in the offseason and assists him with off-the-field responsibilities during the season.
While Richardson had shown signs of improvement heading into the playoffs, his former coach admits there was a time when the running back was discouraged.
"I think his confidence was shattered for a while, but I think the last four weeks leading into the playoff game he had gotten better in all aspects," Boyd said. "His blocking looked more easy. He didn’t look like he was confused. Even though he was getting three-yard runs, they were decisive runs. That touchdown run in Jacksonville was one of his best runs. It was only three yards, but he put his foot in the ground and got up in there."
Since being traded from the Browns to the Colts for a first-round pick in September, Richardson has averaged 2.9 yards a carry and has been bogged down in the backfield on multiple occasions. His performance forced the coaching staff’s hand to start Donald Brown over Richardson in December.
"It has humbled him," Boyd said. "He and I talk about it — that he’s never been benched in little league or even during his days at Alabama when he played with Mark Ingram. I told him, ‘At the end of the day, Donald Brown is playing better than you are when it comes to a productivity level.’ "
While the circumstances haven’t been ideal, Boyd believes that Richardson can find his groove as quickly as Saturday, when the Colts play the New England Patriots.
Certainly, playing with quarterback Andrew Luck has its benefits. Because the second-year quarterback is so cerebral and calls so many audibles at the line of scrimmage, players could become perplexed.
"I met [Richardson] in Jacksonville and said, ‘I can tell you know the plays but I can also tell that you’re struggling with the checkdowns,’ " Boyd said. "When they’re changing the play you know how that goes. It’s one thing to know what the play is, but it’s another thing to be thinking about what the check is.
"It’s paralysis by analysis. You’re thinking so much that your mind is racing and your body is at a standstill."