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Big midseason swap has history

September 22, 2013|SAM FARMER
  • Trent Richardson talks to reporters in Indianapolis on Thursday after the Colts acquired him in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.
Trent Richardson talks to reporters in Indianapolis on Thursday after… (Michael Conroy / AP )

Making a trade during the NFL season is relatively uncommon, and those moves are even more rare when they involve star players. So the Cleveland Browns raised a lot of eyebrows Wednesday in dealing running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a 2014 first-round pick.

Two similarly huge midseason swaps in the 1980s involved Los Angeles teams, with one future Hall of Famer coming to the West Coast and another leaving.

In November 1983, the L.A. Raiders were awarded the rights to star cornerback Mike Haynes, who had played out his contract with New England and had been sitting out the season.

Haynes, who grew up in L.A., had to sue the NFL for the right to play for another team, and the Raiders wound up giving the Patriots first- and second-round picks for him.

That paid off, as Haynes and Lester Hayes formed one of the most formidable cornerback tandems in league history, and the Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl two months after Haynes arrived.

Four years later, while on his way to a Halloween party, L.A. Rams running back Eric Dickerson got a call on his car phone from Colts coach Ron Meyer, who had been his college coach at Southern Methodist, informing him he had been traded to Indianapolis.

"He said, 'D, you want to come play for me?' " Dickerson recalled this week. "I didn't even know he was in Indianapolis. I said, 'Where you at?' He said, 'I'm in Indy, and we just made a trade for you.' I was shocked. I was going to a costume party, all dressed up as an Indian chief."

That was fitting because Dickerson, who was unhappy with the money the Rams were paying him, had been hoping to wind up with the Washington Redskins.

Within a couple of days, Dickerson, after one walk-through practice, was carrying the football for the Colts against the New York Jets.

It all happened so fast that he didn't even have time to switch all his equipment. He has a picture of himself in that Jets game, wearing a white Colts uniform but his gold Rams goggles. By the next game, he had white eyewear to match his helmet.

Although that was 26 years ago, and much about the game has changed, Dickerson thinks Richardson won't have a problem making an immediate contribution when the Colts play at San Francisco on Sunday, as long as they don't ask him to stay back in blitz protection.

"They can run screens with him and let him run the ball," Dickerson said. "But as far as pass protection, it would be very difficult. It could happen, but if I'm on defense, man, I would blitz him. If you think it's a pass, just see if he can pick it up."

Haynes was on an island as a cornerback, so he had to learn the Raiders' system quickly or risk being burned.

He acclimated quickly, which was no surprise considering he had already made six Pro Bowls with New England.

It was another big adjustment with the Raiders that took getting used to -- one that Richardson isn't likely to encounter.

"The thing that was different was that nobody hated the Patriots, except maybe the Jets," Haynes said. "And on the Raiders, everybody hated them. You'd go into hotels in visiting cities, and it was like, wow, I'd never been around that. I never heard boos so loud as the Raider boos."

Snap judgments

There may come a day when it will be exotic for a quarterback to walk up to the line of scrimmage and take a snap directly from center.

More and more, quarterbacks are lining up in shotgun, or in the pistol formation, which is slightly closer to the center and allows for backs to line up behind him.

The numbers reflect the shift. Pro Football Focus has kept tabs on how often quarterbacks line up in shotgun or pistol over the last four years, and the increase has been dramatic -- 31.2% of the snaps in 2010, 40.1% in 2011, 47.2% in 2012 and 58.1% this season.

Spread it around

Detroit's Reggie Bush returned to practice Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday with a sore knee. That's good news for the Lions, who play at Washington on Sunday.

Bush helps diversify his team's attack, and when the Lions rely too heavily on getting the ball to All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson, they pay the price.

Detroit has lost eight consecutive games in which Johnson has caught passes for 100 yards or more, including last Sunday's game at Arizona.

Second-year surge

Whatever the opposite of a sophomore slump is, that's what Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill is now enjoying. He has been terrific for the 2-0 Dolphins, who play host to Atlanta.

Already this season, he has beaten two fellow 2012 first-round quarterbacks: Brandon Weeden of the Browns and Andrew Luck of the Colts. The Dolphins also beat the Russell Wilson-led Seattle Seahawks last season.

As Tannehill goes, so go the Dolphins. They're 7-1 when his passer rating is 90 or higher, and 2-8 when it dips below that.

When it comes to quarterback play, the biggest concern for Miami is pass protection. Tannehill has been sacked nine times in two games. Only Weeden (11) was sacked more in the first two games.

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