Browns face NFL’s best RB on Sunday

CLEVELAND – The running back who will line up in the Minnesota Vikings’ backfield Sunday is the type of player the Browns wished they had received when they drafted Trent Richardson.

That’s the way General Manager Michael Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner viewed it when they traded Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts last Wednesday. You’ll obviously hear a different story from former Browns President Mike Holmgren and former General Manager Tom Heckert, the duo that traded up one spot in the 2012 draft to select Richardson third overall.

Holmgren went on a Seattle radio station Thursday and blasted the trade, saying that if he were the head coach he might think about resigning.

“I struggled with it,”‘ Holmgren said. “Philosophically, if I am the coach and someone came in anywhere and did that, I’d say, ‘Okay fire me, or I’m going to quit, or we’re going to both go to the owner and talk about this and we’ll see who’s still standing.’ “

The fact is that Richardson isn’t an once-in-a-lifetime back. That designation does apply to Adrian Peterson, the Vikings’ superior back and arguably one of the greatest of all time.

Brown defensive coordinator Ray Horton has all the numbers. The one that stands out to him is 1,097 – the number of rushing yards accumulated by Peterson after first contact last season.

“If you focus on Mr. Peterson’s legs and lower half and his tremendous strength and core, he’ll run you over and cut back and challenge every gap,” Horton said. “He’s a joy to watch.”

A joy, that is, for Vikings fans and coaches that don’t have to game plan against him. Horton faces that challenge this week. The good news for him is that the run defense has allowed an average of 59.5 yards through two games, which is tied for fourth best in the NFL.

“We’re going to be challenged by Adrian,” Horton said. “We’ll see how we hold up. It’s not bulletin-board material. We think we’re pretty good at stopping the run and they’re good at running it.”

Peterson is well on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Through six seasons he’s rushed for 9,042 yards, almost 2,000 more than the next player on the list since 2007 (Tennessee’s Chris Johnson). Other areas he leads during that six-year stretch are rushing touchdowns (78), overall touchdowns (83), yards from scrimmage (10,593) and scrimmage yards per game (116.4).

Perhaps most impressive is Peterson’s average per carry of 5.0 yards. Just three backs have ever had a 5.0 average or higher with a minimum of 1,000 rushing attempts. They are Jim Brown (5.2), Barry Sanders (5.0) and Peterson.

The Browns are one of six teams that passed on Peterson in the first round of the 2007 draft – the others were Oakland (JaMarcus Russell), Detroit (Calvin Johnson), Tampa Bay (Gaines Adams), Arizona (Levi Brown) and Washington (LaRon Landry).

It’s hard to criticize the Browns’ selection of offensive tackle Joe Thomas, a Pro Bowl selection in each of his six seasons. Still, not selecting a potential Hall of Fame back in Peterson was a gamble.

Peterson believed at the time of the draft that his future home was in Cleveland. He thinks there might be some regret at not selecting him by the Browns, although the choice of Thomas was made by former General Manager Phil Savage.

“The fans there are probably more upset than I am to this day,” Peterson said. “It (Thomas) was a good pick for them, but fans might have wanted a little more action back there.”

One of many great runs by Peterson occurred in the 2009 season opener in Cleveland when he broke off left tackle and, with several defenders clawing at him, shoved cornerback Eric Wright to the ground on the way to a 64-yard touchdown run.

“It probably wasn’t my greatest run, but in the top two or three,” Peterson said.

The Browns would hate to see his best run.