Lewis making most of reps

CLEVELAND – Supposedly we’ll soon see Trent Richardson practicing on a regular basis.

That’s assuming nothing happens that might add to Richardson’s injury problems, which have been many for the Browns running back. Since his final season at Alabama in 2011, Richardson’s name has come up more often concerning injuries than performances on the field.

All of which makes the job of backup running back of extreme importance for the upcoming season. Richardson claims to be healthy after dealing with a lower-leg injury, but he didn’t play against the St. Louis Rams last Thursday. It’s not known if he’ll play Thursday against the Detroit Lions in the second preseason game.

Getting the best opportunity in Richardson’s absence has been Dion Lewis, who was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for linebacker Emmanuel Acho. Lewis has been one of the more impressive offensive players so far, showing that he might be an effective option when Richardson is off the field.

“He brings a lot of different aspects to that position,” said quarterback Brandon Weeden after the Browns’ 27-19 win over the Rams. “He can run it well between the tackles, and obviously he creates mismatches when he gets out into the open field.”

Management would prefer to use Lewis as a change of pace to the more powerful Richardson, who ideally will get at least 20 carries a game. At 5-8 and 195 pounds, Lewis could add a short, outside option to the passing game and an occasional running presence.

“Trent, we all know what he can do out of the backfield, and he can catch the ball,” Weeden said. “They are two different styles of runners. I think they complement each other extremely well and are two very good backs.”

Lewis continues to get most the repetitions with the first-team offense in Richardson’s absence. Against the Rams he had five carries for 12 yards and hauled in three Weeden passes for 22 yards, including a 16-yarder and a 2-yard grab for a touchdown.

“It felt good to get out there and go against other guys,” Lewis said. “One thing about camp is you get tired of going against your own guys. It was good to get my feet wet a little bit.”

Richardson was on the field but not in uniform prior to pre-game warmups. He did some running at less than full speed, exhibiting no sign of the injury.

Still, there has to be concern about the amount of time Richardson has missed in the last two training camps (last year he was out following knee surgery).

In the competitive world of the NFL, one player’s injury is another player’s chance to show his skills.

“Obviously you want all your players to play, but when your number is called you have to be ready,” Lewis said. “You have to prepare as if you’re going to get a lot of touches.”

As camp continues to unfold and with three preseason games remaining, the pecking order at running back are Richardson, Lewis and Brandon Jackson. Chris Ogbonnaya has been moved to fullback, which should save him a roster spot. Perhaps on the outside looking in are fullback Owen Marecic and running back Montario Hardesty.

No matter how it shakes out, Lewis will get his chances. If needed, he feels he can be a workhorse back.

“I feel I can be,” he said. “I’m going to keep working and do what the coaches tell me.”