Montario Hardesty

Training Camp Preview: Browns

Biggest Question Mark: Jake Delhomme
Delhomme looked like he was all but done in Carolina last year. Now, with a significantly worse supporting cast, how can he possibly rebound? He certainly has the intangible leadership ability that Cleveland has been lacking at quarterback for years, but does he have the tools to be productive on Sundays?

BEREA, OH - MAY 01: Montario Hardesty #31 of the Cleveland Browns takes a hand off from Colt McCoy #12 during rookie mini camp at the Cleveland Browns Training and Administrative Complex on May 1, 2010 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Is Hardesty the Browns future at running back?

Position Battle to Watch: Running Back
Jerome Harrison put up some gaudy numbers down the stretch last season, but the Browns still don’t view him as a franchise running back. He’s undersized and probably wouldn’t hold up over the course of the season as a starter. As a result, rookie Montario Hardesty and second-year pro James Davis are set to fight Harrison for the starting role.

Impact Rookie: Montario Hardesty
Whether he wins the starting job or not, Hardesty will likely figure prominently in the Browns plans this season. He battled injuries throughout his career at Tennessee but is coming off a healthy and productive senior year. If his injury woes are truly behind him, the Browns may have landed a steal in the 2nd round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: Browns

The Browns had to be devastated to see Eric Berry come off the board at No. 5 to the Chiefs. It left them without an obvious pick in the 1st round.

Joe Haden was an acceptable option, but a team with so many holes should avoid adding to an area of relative strength early in the draft. Eric Wright and Sheldon Brown are a solid duo of starting corners and, compared to the rest of the team, represent one of the few strengths on the depth chart.

T.J. Ward was a huge reach in the early 2nd round. Since high school his career has been filled with injuries. When healthy, he’s shown the ability to be a future NFL starter, but there’s no reason to believe that he’ll suddenly be able to stay out of the trainers room. It looks as though the Browns reached to fill a position of need.

I have the same criticisms of Montario Hardesty as I do about Ward. When healthy, he looks great. But he just can’t stay on the field. During his career he’s suffered a torn ACL, an ankle sprain and a broken leg. There’s just no reason to believe a running back with a history of injuries will be able to withstand the pounding of the NFL over the course of a 16-game season.

In the 3rd round they finally got their quarterback. While I think Colt McCoy could be a steal in the 3rd round, I’m actually not crazy about the pick. The Browns obviously had no intention of drafting McCoy, and Mike Holmgren hasn’t even tried to deny that fact. They never thought he’d be on the board at No. 85. Based on that fact, I don’t like the selection. If they don’t view McCoy as a potential franchise quarterback [he wasn't even the top player on their board at No. 85] then why take him at all? All this does is potentially dissuade them from spending their 2011 1st-round pick on a true franchise quarterback [Jake Locker? Ryan Mallett? Andrew Luck?].

Shaun Lauvoa was a great pickup in the late 3rd round. The former left tackle has an excellent chance to replace Pork Chop Womack as the starting right guard.

Larry Asante is a potential steal in the 5th round. He’s an ideal strong safety and should be able to contribute immediately on special teams and as Abram Elam’s backup.

I absolutely love the selection of Carlton Mitchell. He’s very raw, but he was mentioned as a potential 3d-round pick entering the draft based on potential alone. He has all the tools necessary to develop into a true No. 1 receiver – a position which the Browns are currently lacking.

Clifton Geathers has a chance to be another late-round steal. He’s a prototypical 3-4 defensive end. Kenyon Coleman and Robaire Smith don’t exactly have a stranglehold on the starting jobs, so Geathers could have an outside shot at winning a starting job before the season is over. That’s a lofty expectation for a 6th-round pick, but I think its a reasonable goal for Geathers.

Overall this was a fairly uninspiring draft for the Browns. If Colt McCoy develops into a future star, we’ll look at this draft as the turning point of the franchise, but the odds are greater that he never plays a game for the Browns. As a 3rd-round pick they have virtually nothing invested in him. They passed over him an injury-prone running back and safety – not exactly giving off the impression that they view him as the answer to their quarterback problems.

Ultimately the most disappointing aspect of this draft is the fact that Browns may not have landed a single player who will be a regular starter in 2010. Even Haden will have to beat out either Wright or Brown. For a team with so many holes to fill, that’s the very definition of a disappointing draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Draft Grades - 2010 1 Comment

Addressing the Seahawks RB situation

In March 2008 the Seahawks signed former Cowboys running back Julius Jones to a a four-year $11.8M contract. It seemed like an excessive contract for a running back who’s production had fallen steadily since an impressive rookie year in 2004.

Now two years later the Seahawks are left with a tough decision, but it doesn’t involve Jones. Despite Jim Mora’s inexplicable allegiance to Jones last season, when he finally went down with an injury Justin Forsett stepped up in a big way.

Seattle Seahawks v St. Louis RamsForsett is undersized (5’9″, 190 lbs) but is as explosive as any running back in the league. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season, which ranked him 4th in the league among players with at least 100 carries.

But he isn’t just a change-of-pace back. Forsett averaged 3.2 yards after contact per attempt. Compare that to a similar running back in terms of stature, Reggie Bush, who averaged just 2.1. He may be small, but he’s well built and could handle an increased workload in 2010. The combo of Forsett and Jones (with the roles reversed from last year) could prove to be a formidable duo.

The Seahawks new regime is playing their cards close to the vest so far this offseason, but its possible they aren’t sold on either Forsett or Jones. Many mock drafts have predicted they may target C.J. Spiller in the 1st round, but he doesn’t look like a good fit in Seattle.

Assuming the Seahawks don’t plan on trading Forsett, its tough to imagine Spiller and Forsett in the same backfield. They have a similar skill set and are both undersized. It would leave the Seahawks with two home run threats, but no one to pick up the tough yards.

If the Seahawks are set on taking a running back in the 1st round Jonathan Dwyer should be the pick. Unlike Spiller he’s a powerful downhill runner – the perfect compliment to Forsett.

Considering the Seahawks other glaring needs (offensive tackle, safety, receiver, etc), the smart move may actually be to wait for the 2nd or 3rd round. Ryan Mathews could be available in the 2nd round, while Toby Gerhart or Montario Hardesy could be options in the 3rd. All three have the ability to serve as the “thunder” to Forsett’s “lightening” without forcing the Seahawks to reach on a running back who will be forced to split carries with Forsett and possibly Jones as well.

(polls)

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Seahawks Comments Off

Texans Need a Power Running Back

Between now and the NFL Draft, we will run a series of articles analyzing each team’s needs using stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com

texansSteve Slaton burst onto the scene late in 2008, rushing for 737 yards over the final seven games of the season. As a result the Texans, and numerous fantasy owners who drafted him in the 1st round, entered 2009 with lofty expectations.

The results were underwhelming. In 11 games prior to a season-ending neck injury, Slaton rushed for just 437 yards at a dismal rate of 3.3 yards per carry.

New Orleans Saints v Houston TexansThe reason behind the decline is fairly simple. Slaton just doesn’t have the body of an NFL running back. Year after year we see impressive late-season statistics posted by backups plugged into starting roles. Last year it was Slaton, this year it was Jerome Harrison Harrison and Jamal Charles. Occasionally these backups prove to be the real deal. But more often than not they simply capitalizing on being fresh from having not been worn down as the workhorse for the majority of the season and are playing with extra motivation to win the starting job for the following season.

In Slaton’s case, both factors could have played a role in his 2008 heroics. There’s no denying his ability as a big-play running back, but like others such as Reggie Bush and Leon Washinngton, he doesn’t have the strength to carry the load.

To demonstrate his inability to be a feature back, consider the stat “yards after contact” which is tracked by the guys at ProFootballFocus. Among running backs with at least 100 attempts, Slaton averaged the 4th-fewest yards after contact per attempt this season at just 2.12.

yardsaftercontact

From the view of an opposing defensive coordinator, these are the ideal running backs to face. Yes, Slaton could hurt you by breaking off a big run, but you don’t feel the need to stack the box in order to slow him down. As a result, Slaton’s inability to force defenses to game-plan for him allows defenses to focus their attention on Andre Johnson and their potent passing attack.

Down the stretch the Texans used the more physically imposing Arian Foster (6’1″, 217 lbs) as the feature back. He did an adequate job, but the Texas likely won’t feel comfortable handing him the starting job for 2010.

Given the limited number of running backs available in free agency, this is likely a position the Texans will need to address in the draft. In the 1st round Jonathan Dwyer and Ryan Mathews are both options, but would it would be considered a reach by many to select either one in the top 20. The safer route may be to select a player such as Anthony Dixon or Montario Hardesty in the 2nd or 3rd round to share the load with Slaton in 2010.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Texans Comments Off

Clinton Portis Returning to Washington?

redskinsIn an interview on ESPN’s First Take this morning Clinton Portis opened up about his “rough” 2009 season, and seemed to indicate that he expects to return to Washington in 2010. (see transcript here)

Given his injury-plagued and generally unproductive season, it would seem unlikely that Portis’ prophecy comes true. Oh, and then there’s the $6.34M he’s owed in 2010.

In reality, Mike Shanahan just isn’t going to keep the washed up running back who’s work ethic he has criticized and who he once traded away while in Denver. The more likely scenario will be for Shanahan to add a running back somewhere between the 2nd and 4th rounds of the draft.

ACC Championship  - Clemson v Georgia TechIn our latest mock draft we have the ‘Skins selecting Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer in the 2nd round.

Dwyer’s the type of downhill runner that Shanahan covets. His style is similar to former Broncos running backs Terrell Davis, Reuben Droughns, Selvin Young and even comparable to Portis. Other options in the 2nd or 3rd round may be Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty, Auburn’s Ben Tate, Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon or Stanford’s Toby Gerhart.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Broncos 1 Comment