Trent Richardson Expected to Compete For Starting Job


When the Oakland Raiders brought in much maligned running back Trent Richardson after he was waived by the Indianapolis Colts, many around the NFL raised their eyebrows at the team giving a former top draft pick what will now be his third chance in the league. Richardson burned out his welcome with the Colts after showing flashes of his playmaking ability with the Cleveland Browns, failing to adjust to the Indianapolis offensive scheme as a poor fit as well as a poor teammate according to many reports of the running back being a malcontent due to his poor play and constant fines from the team for being a few pounds over his set weight by the coaching staff.

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Those concerns over Richardson weren’t enough to scare away the Raiders who made the still young rusher their second backfield acquisition in 2015 NFL Free Agency, hoping to get some value out of a player who was highly thought of enough that both the Browns as well as the Colts used first round draft picks to get him onto their rosters.

Despite the fact that Richardson is still a young player and was once a top prospect in two stops before becoming a bad fit with the Colts, most analysts have panned the move by general manager Reggie McKenzie with the consensus being that the former first round pick is on the steep decline to being out of football sooner rather than later. A consensus that the Raiders clearly disagree with as the team have big plans for the running back to come into a platoon that will include Latavius Murray in addition to fellow free agent acquisition Roy Helu Jr. in the 2015 season.

In fact the Raiders are high enough on Richardson that they see the running back having a chance to push Murray for a starting job in training camp even if the two players saw their careers go in opposite directions late last season. Murray turning into a player to watch for the future with dynamic rushing efforts for Oakland while Richardson became a player on the outs with the Colts as they pushed towards the playoff with Indianapolis deciding it wasn’t worth the investment anymore to see if he could turn it around.

Head coach Jack Del Rio told ESPN’s Bill Williamson that he thinks the running back picture this upcoming season will be one that is closer than expected in terms of playing time, at the least for the moment as he expects the running backs that were brought in to compete with the young Murray for the feature back role.

“I think it will be a competitive situation,” Del Rio said of the running back situation this past week.

What Del Rio likes most about Richardson is the upside that taking a former college star and top draft pick presents if the player himself can find the level of play that got him to where he is today rather than the declining talent that critics have seen in recent years from the running back.

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“What I saw when we brought him in and talked to him was a young man that was hungry to kind of leave that portion of his career behind him and start fresh,” Del Rio said of Richardson while telling Williamson that he has challenged his new running back to become the player he once was as a hungry college star with the Crimson Tide. “My challenge to him was, ‘Look, I don’t want you to worry about anything other than coming in here and competing your butt off every day. Come in here and be a great teammate. Come in here and find a role on special teams. Come in here and just grind every day with the hunger you had as a freshman at Alabama.'”

The jury is out on how Richardson will pan out in Oakland, but he will only succeed if he earns and gets an opportunity to show what he can do on a power running team. Oakland under new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will likely run the ball in a manner that suits Richardson’s strengths and the team seem to be prepared to give their new running back every opportunity to prove his doubters wrong, it is now up to the player to take advantage of what could be his final chance to shake the “bust” label. If he does that he will be one of the steals of free agency in what is a low risk, high reward move from the Raiders who are expecting Richardson to harness his former talents in a better situation in Oakland.