When the Browns decided to trade Trent Richardson to the Colts for a single first-round pick, the deal was considered a blockbuster. One full season later, Indianapolis decided to let Richardson go.
The fall from grace, which is even more substantial considering Richardson was the third overall pick of the 2012 draft and one more team used a first rounder to acquire him, is something he hopes to rectify.
And the Raiders have a plan for him: Do all the things he did at the University of Alabama.
Richardson was used as a downhill runner in college, and benefited from a superior offense line and a run-first style of play.
Of constant pressure to change with systems, and his mindset in trying to return to his old self, Richardson said:
“(It’s about) jut being me. Not doing everything that I think everyone else wants me to do. Doing what god put me here to do.”
The 24-year-old running back spent his last days on Indianapolis’ roster with a team-imposed one game suspension looming for the 2015 season, which was dealt because of weight gain.
Richardson looked the part of a running back who was in the room during the Heisman trophy ceremony, one of only a few finalists in 2012. Slim enough, and far from the 240 pounds he was said to have weighed when he was initially suspended.
Head coach Jack Del Rio had an interesting explanation for what he wants of Richardson, interesting because he didn’t want Richardson to dwell on the past, but to embrace parts of it:
“What we talk about before he came here is to get back to thinking like he did as a young man at Alabama when he first got there as a freshman, where you’re just busting your butt every day and doing everything you can to compete with everybody in everything you do. Let’s see where that takes you.”
Richardson subscribes to a philosophy that an athlete must have a chip on their shoulder, that it’s necessary to compete. It’s clear that he’s got some doubters, to the point where one well-read draft website conjured a rumor about Richardson being a locker room cancer.
Other credible analysts, though, have been skeptical of Richardson’s tenure thus far in the league, even though he’s yet to play his fourth season.
“I was always a great player, coming out or going into a game, I always felt like I couldn’t be denied.”
Richardson alluded to a new playbook that will include lots of power running, something that Cleveland did a little of when he was there, and that the Colts haven’t done in a number of years.
Del Rio said:
“I know he’s a guy that has some significant abilities and we’re just going to try to pull out all that we can and help him develop as a young man and as a player into being all that he can. Hopefully that turns around and he can become all he wants to be.”
In Richardson’s rookie season, he amassed 11 touchdowns and just under 1,00 yards on 257 rushing attempts in an offense that was less threatening than a hermit crab.
Though Oakland’s offense isn’t that of Denver or Indianapolis, he’ll have a legitimate shot to best his rookie numbers. It’s a better group, with an established quarterback and a serviceable, if not decent, set of receivers.
The Raiders coaching staff is entirely new, save for defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson. In one of the most genuine-feeling comments of voluntary workouts, Del Rio said that he loves his staff.
It’s a group that Del Rio was able to hand-pick, with many of the faces familiar from his stint as Jaguars head coach.
The coaching staff was almost, if not equally, as big of a priority as finding players in free agency. Many of Oakland’s new coaches come with shiny resumes and it’s easy to see why Del Rio likes them.
All of the players will partake in more intense and uptempo practices than years past — Tony Sparano was laid back and Dennis Allen had an average tempo and intensity level.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.