This week the Raiders host the Cleveland Browns in a battle of two teams having very disappointing seasons. The Browns, however, are coming off a good win over the Steelers while the Raiders were embarrassed by the Bengals. All other factors aside, the one thing the Raiders must do to win this game is shut down Trent Richardson.
That will be no easy task. Richardson is 13th in the league in rushing with 755 yards, and is fifth in rushing attempts with 209. It's easy to see that the Browns are riding him hard and depending on him to be their workhorse back. It's not surprising, as Richardson is likely their second-best offensive player behind only star left tackle Joe Thomas. Richardson has the ball in his hand a lot, and is productive when he does. He is deceptively fast for his stocky frame and has the strength to run over defenders. He's sort of like a shorter version of Earl Campbell. Even Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram could not keep Richardson off the field at Alabama.
In order to slow Richardson, the Raider defensive line must do a better job of shedding blocks. The Browns have a reasonably good offensive line but the Raiders will have to impose their will. I anticipate a lot of run blitzes by the linebackers and possibly the safeties as well. The Raider cornerbacks must be able to hold their own in single coverage, as the Browns have no wide receivers of real consequence.
The trouble will come when the Raiders are caught in a run blitz, and Richardson is given the ball on a screen pass. He has good hands and is a good receiver out of the backfield. The Raider corners can not have their backs to him on a screen or he will make them pay. The Raiders should have at least one linebacker spy Richardson at all times to prevent him springing huge gains on short passes.