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Steelers-Browns play to watch: Two tight end swing pass

| Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Cleveland running back Trent Richardson wasn't drafted with the third overall pick this year for his pass-catching abilities, but the rookie has shown he can catch the ball with the best of them.

Richardson has 37 receptions for 289 yards and a touchdown and has proven to be a valuable checkdown option for rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Richardson, who set career-highs with 29 catches and 338 yards last year at Alabama, is fifth in the NFL in targets to running backs (51), fourth in receptions, seventh in yards and fourth in pass patterns run by a running back (215).

“Some plays are designed for me, and others are checkdowns,” said Richardson, who also is on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

The majority have been checkdowns, but that has lessened their effect.

All 51 of Richardson's targets have been fewer than 10 yards downfield, with 22 of his 37 catches coming behind the line of scrimmage.

In fact, Richardson has more yards after the catch (357) than he has total receiving yards (289).

Cleveland has gotten the ball to Richardson in various ways, especially of late.

He has been targeted 14 times the past two games.

Cleveland will isolate him on a linebacker over the middle. He will run an out-cut from an off-I formation. The Browns will set up screens for him. But mostly, Richardson is a checkdown option for Weeden.

Richardson admits that most of his accomplishments in the passing game have come through the checkdown.

The one that has been most successful is the two tight end swing pass checkdown.

With George Little split wide left and Josh Gordon to the right, the Browns line up in a power formation, with tight end Jordan Cameron tight to the line on the left and Benjamin Watson to the right.

Gordon runs a deep post pattern and Little a deep curl route. Watson, the team's best receiving tight end, releases from the line of scrimmage and settles in the middle of the field, drawing the strong safety.

Richardson, lined up 7 yards deep behind Weeden, swings out to the right flat. After Weeden goes through his progressions in a seven-step drop, he swings the ball out to Richardson in stride.

The inside linebacker is usually late getting out to cover him, allowing Richardson to pick up easy yards.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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