Friday, June 11, 2010
Dawg Pound: Get Ready for the Montario Hardesty Era
Yes, Harrison did rush for 561 yards over the final three games of 2009 and has some momentum for 2010. However, those opponents Harrison ran over were Kansas City (31st), Oakland (29th), and Jacksonville (19th). We're not exactly talking running against the 2000 Ravens here. The Browns last game against a good rush defense, a 13-6 victory over Pittsburgh (3rd), Harrison only managed 7 carries for 9 yards.
Dispite the successes against lesser opponents down the stretch, there is much to be improved in the Browns running attack. Thankfully, new Browns G.M. Tom Heckert, along with Eric Mangini, haven't let this slip past them. Enter University of Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty.
On the second day of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Browns traded three picks to the Eagles in order to move up and draft Hardesty in the second round (59th overall). This was an important addition to the Browns offense and here is why.
Hardesty is a running back with the size (5-11, 225lb.), speed (4.49), and toughness to handle himself versus the defenses of the AFC North. Just watch his highlight video at the end of the post to see his physical, yet elusive, style of running. He's also a pretty good receiving back to boot.
The following were the final rankings against the run for the AFC North defenses...Pittsburgh 3rd, Baltimore 5th, and Cincinatti 7th. What was the Browns final division record last year? 1-5. Wonderful.
Granted, while it is still only June, but Hardesty's promotion to the first team offense sends many messages. One is the coaching staff has faith in the rookie to carry the load of the offense and is rewarding his hard work. Two is the Browns still have concerns that *Harrison's offensive explosion last December was likely more due to playing teams that were below average rather than Jerome Harrison turning into the second coming of Earnest Byner overnight. Three, trusting second year running back James Davis with handling a bulk of the rushing attack is just too much of a risk this year.
(*I don't consider Harrison's contract status into the equation right now. Nobody on the Browns, including Matt Roth, is going to sit out the season and leave the money on the table in 2010. You can take that to the blood bank.)
To win in the AFC North you have to be able to run the football at will, late in the season especially, against playoff caliber opponents and play physical defense. Thankfully, for the first time in about two decades, the Browns seem to finally have both a coaching staff and management team that have come to agree on that.