Sheldon Richardson has been making news for his stellar play. To date Richardson has 19 total pressures (13 hurries, 3 sacks, 3 hits). During the Jets upset victory of New Orleans, Richardson amassed 4 total tackles. He has played well on the line teaming up with Mo Wilkerson to create a dominant front. He plays with consistent pressure and poise. He has surprised many with his stout run defense skills.
Coming out of the draft Richardson was said to be undersized, but raw. Scouts said he had quick feet and agility. His length was impressive in the trenches and he was a solid tackler. He has a strong first step off the snap. Richardson has excellent leverage and pad level. His upper body was questioned for being weaker than his counterparts, however he has compensated for this by perfecting his footwork. Many were worried about how he would heal from his shoulder surgery, however Richardson had a swift recovery. This is mostly due to his athleticism and light frame. When scouting Richardson it was quite easy to see that he is a pure pass rusher. Being an inside rusher as opposed to outside has greatly benefited Richardson. He takes away the quarterbacks ability to step up into the throw.
His pass rushing ability is one that is not surprising, but he has greatly improved against the run. Currently Richardson has stuffed 18 runs, which is tied for third most in the league. Rex Ryan has spoken highly of Richardson saying this about the rookie: "Yeah, (he has a) high motor. (It is) rare to have a guy with that kind of athleticism. I mean, he's never off his feet unless he's making a tackle. I remember seeing a guy like Lee Roy Selmon. That was it. The only time he's ever on the ground is when he's making a tackle. I'm not saying he's Lee Roy Selmon, but that would be nice." Although Richardson is far from Lee Roy Selmon, he can develop into a player of that caliber if he continues to put in the work necessary to reach greatness.
It is easy to see Richardson is a work horse. He's played in 515 snaps this season... nearly 80% of the team's total. His athleticism has allowed him to endure the grueling work that his position brings. Richardson is on pace to put together an excellent rookie season.
Richardson's biggest competition for Defensive Rookie Of The Year is AFC East Rival linebacker Kiko Alonso of the Buffalo Bills. Alonso currently has 89 combined tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 interceptions. Alonso has had an amazing year, however he has lately been playing at a level that is not worthy of any accolades (this could just be a small slump). If Richardson continues playing at this level he will most definitely make a strong case for Defensive Rookie Of The Year.