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Trent Richardson not demoted by Cleveland Browns

The headline in Friday's Canton Repository caught me off guard: "Childress says no plans to demote Richardson."

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Wait, what?

It's remarkable this even is a conversation. The Cleveland Browns took Richardson with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. They traded up for him! His backup is ... Montario Hardesty. Yet it's not that crazy a suggestion when you look at the numbers.

Richardson is averaging 24 carries per game during the past month, without a 100-yard game. He hasn't averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry in any of those games and was held to just 42 yards last week. For perspective, New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw has the same number of yards as Richardson this season in 51 fewer attempts.

The lack of big plays has been a problem. Richardson is seventh in the NFL in attempts yet has just two plays for more than 20 yards. (Forty runners have more; quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Christian Ponder have as many explosive runs.)

It's hard to believe. The Browns have a good offensive line, and Hardesty is averaging more than a full yard more per carry (4.7 to 3.5) than Richardson. We suspect Richardson never fully recovered from knee surgery just before the season. He also has injured ribs.

Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said the team is "not there" when it comes to benching Richardson, but it could reduce his snaps.

"Are we going to give him a series every now and then, or every third series or something to that nature?" Childress said. "Yeah, we talk about that."

We've seen enough from Richardson to believe he'll be a very good pick in the long run. But this has been a frustrating rookie season for him, and these are questions no one expected to have asked.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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