It was announced as news today, that the Indianapolis Colts’ all-time leading rusher, Edgerrin James (with 9,226 yards in blue from ’99-05), will be helping to mentor RB Trent Richardson this training camp. Richardson struggled drastically after being traded to the Colts during last season. However, with Edge’s help and an improved overall comfort zone and familiarity with his teammates and the offensive system, there’s a genuine hope within the organization that Richardson can positively turn things around in 2014.
Edgerrin James can relate to the high expectations placed on Richardson from being a high draft pick, as he was the 4th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft (Richardson was the 3rd overall in 2012). He also knows what it takes to be a successful rusher in Indianapolis, and what it’s like to work alongside a star young QB, as he played a pivotal role in a young Peyton Manning’s quarterback development once upon a time.
Beyond the noticeable ‘dreads, there’s some similarities between their running styles as well. Post-ACL Surgery (2001), while still quick, James was never going to blow past defenders with elite breakaway speed. Rather, he used his smarts, vision, and rugged running style to wear down defenders. With a 4.45 forty-time and benching 225 pounds, 25 times, coming out of the University of Alabama in 2012, Richardson has some of those same admirable physical qualities. James at 6’0″, 219 lbs, is a little bigger than Richardson at 5’9″, 225 lbs, but both are built like mini-tanks, make no mistake about it.
For Richardson, James thinks it’s all about entering a comfort zone this season with a full offseason under his belt:
“It was unfair to judge him because it is two different systems,” James said, via ESPN.com. “The terminology is totally different and he was just kind of thrown out there. You can’t really get an assessment because there is so much going on for him personally and the things you have to go through in order to be good in this league. This is the NFL; you can’t just sign somebody thinking they can come in and be a star no matter how good they have been. It takes time. Now he has a chance to put in the proper time and the proper work and get to know his teammates and know the different plays so he can go out and play like he did when he came out of the University of Alabama.”
Still, many Colts’ fans envisioned Richardson being a similar franchise caliber type back to Edgerrin James, when they surrendered their 2014 first round pick to obtain his rushing services. What we saw in 2013 was a running back, who looked more like a quality sub than star. Richardson should be given the benefit of the doubt, having only now had a full season with the team, but this is likely a make or break year for him as far as his considered long-term value with the team goes.
For comparison purposes, let’s compare Trent Richardson and Edgerrin James during their 1st two seasons in the NFL:
As one can see, Richardson has quite a ways to go to be the type of player that Edgerrin James was in his first few years in the league. James averaged 1,631 rushing yards and 13 TD’s in each of his first two seasons. In fact, most of James’s averages either doubled or were close to doubling Richardson’s average production.
By the numbers, it’s easy to forget just how prolific of a receiving option that James was for Peyton Manning and the Colts’ offense in 1999 and 2000. He was close to 600 receiving yards and had 4+ TD’s in each of his first two seasons. While Richardson is highly regarded as a receiving option in the backfield in his own right, James was among the league’s historically greats, both in the receiving and blocking game.
Here’s hoping James can show Richardson a thing or two going forward because it never hurts to listen to one of the all-time bests, even for a short time.