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Where's Jim Brown?

March 27, 2012 - Mike McLain
That might be a tongue-in-cheek question to the Browns' situation in the backfield less than half a year before the start of the 2012 season.

With Peyton Hillis leaving to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, the Browns are down to Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya as the top two backs on the depth chart. They will also get Brandon Jackson back from a toe injury that cost him the entire 2011 season, but he's a third-down specialist.

There's no way the Browns can expect a full season from Hardesty, who's had only one healthy season since his freshman season at Tennessee. Ogbonnaya was a decent midseason addition last season, but to think he can be a featured back on a weekly basis would be foolish.

Alabama running back Trent Richardson is a viable candidate to be selected with the fourth overall draft choice. He's been labeled the best running-back prospect since Adrian Peterson entered the 2007 draft and would be a big upgrade.

The problem is that running backs have short careers because of the constant pounding they absorb. Peterson had five outstanding seasons before tearing a knee ligament last season. It remains to be seen if he'll ever be as productive as he once was when he returns.

Browns general manager Tom Heckert believes that quality running backs can be plucked from the draft in later rounds. If he sticks to that thinking, don't expect Richardson to be the fourth pick.

The dilemma at running back indicates how desperate the Browns are on the offensive side of the ball. There are three skilled-position areas that need to be strong in order to win consistenly -- quarterback, running baclk and the number one receiver. At this time the Browns have no one at any of those spots that can be considered better than average.

The reference to Brown is obviously a joke. Unfortunately, for the Browns, no one will be laughing if they don't do something to bolster the offense.


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