Following up on the ongoing story. ... The Browns' rushing offense has struggled, and running back Trent Richardson is a big part of those difficulties.
Richardson missed the preseason recovering from knee surgery, and now he is battling an injury to cartilage on the right side of his ribs. He rushed for only 8 yards on eight carries before being pulled in Indianapolis last week.
The Browns rank 30th in the NFL in rushing. Last week, they used 17 rushing plays to gain 55 yards against the Colts. One week earlier, Indianapolis allowed 252 rushing yards to the Jets.
"I think we can be an effective team running the football," head coach Pat Shurmur said. "We need to do a better job of doing it. That's it. Call better plays, block better, run better, that's it. I wish I could give you some theorem that makes it happen that way, but we just need to do it."
According to the Sports Xchange, the Browns have used 145 rushing plays and 283 pass plays, including sacks as pass plays. The ratio of nearly two pass plays for every running play is far greater than the league average of 58 percent pass to 42 percent run.
Richardson, who is listed as questionable, is determined to play.
In practice, though, he isn't taking hits to the ribs like the one that originally injured him Oct. 14 in the Cincinnati game.
"I can tell a big difference," Richardson said after practice Wednesday. "Last week, it was still fresh. This week, it feels way better than it did last week. You know it's making progress, and I can really tell the big difference from this week to last week."
The Browns are usually playing from behind, so that is an obvious reason why they pass more.
However, with Richardson out of the game against the Colts and Cleveland never behind by more than four points, Shurmur called only six running plays in the second half -- two in the third quarter and four in the fourth -- and 22 pass plays. Montario Hardesty gained 9 yards and 6 yards on separate fourth-quarter runs.
The Browns average 3.8 yards a carry. Just eight teams have lower averages. Excluding the game in Cincinnati, in which Richardson rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries and the Browns averaged 5.7 yards a try, the team rushing average dips below 3.5. That would put Cleveland at the bottom of the league.
Per the Xchange, one theory attributes problems to Richardson missing all of the preseason while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. His knee might be fine now, but he missed valuable opportunities to get his timing down.
Another theory is the holes are not there. But after Richardson was pulled from the second Cincinnati game because of the rib injury (after he'd gained 37 yards on 14 carries), Hardesty darted through the holes and gained 56 yards on 15 carries.
"I wouldn't point to any trends right now," Shurmur said. "There were some things happening in the run game and some of what I saw in the passing game (against the Colts) that were inefficient that were not Trent's fault."
Given all that, it's safe to assume the Browns will continue to ask Brandon Weeden to take scoring shots on a regular basis -- especially since the Chargers have given up 14 touchdown passes in six games.
Josh Gordon dropped a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Colts last week, but Weeden will not be afraid to throw to him Sunday.
"Coming right back to him just like I always do," Weeden said. "He makes that catch nine times out of 10. It just didn't happen on that day. I stay positive with him. He's made a lot of big plays. He's coming into his own, and he's becoming a really good player."