Posted by Andy Benoit
Browns rookie running back Montario Hardesty, a thundering second-round pick out of Tennessee, has missed all of training camp – and will likely end up missing the team’s first three preseason contests – thanks to a sprained right knee. Yet, Hardesty will still contribute in the Sept. 12 opener.
"Yes, I would him expect him to [be ready for the season]," Eric Mangini said, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "There's been no setback. Based on the plan that we had and the progress that he has made, my anticipation is that he'll be practicing again in the near future and ideally playing in the opener."
The knee-jerk reaction to this is that the callow Hardesty won’t be ready. A rookie missing training camp and the preseason, only to play (and perhaps start) in Week 1?
But this brings up an interesting point that Chiefs running back Thomas Jones made in Sports Illustrated’s cover article about running backs last week. “Here’s the thing about running back,” Jones said. “It’s an instinctive position. A young guy can come in and play right away. (It’s more instinctive) than a lot of other position.”
Most rookie running backs struggle in pass protection because that’s the one area of the game that requires them to think rather than just react. But the Browns already have Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis to handle third down duties. The plan all along has been for Hardesty to evolve into the first- and second-down back. It looks like, as long as Hardesty is healthy come September, that plan will remain on track.
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