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NY Jets Spotlight: Sheldon Richardson

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Al Bello/Getty Images

Welcome to the Spotlight.  Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week.  Today's player in the spotlight is Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson.

Sheldon Richardson, a 6' 3", 300 pound defensive lineman out of the University of Missouri, was drafted by the Jets with the 13th overall selection in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.  With great strength, extraordinary quickness and agility for a man his size, great leverage and as good a motor for a defensive lineman as you'll ever see, Richardson has the ideal makeup of a 34 defensive lineman.  He is capable of playing tackle or end and he can and will line up anywhere.

Richardson was an instant sensation as a rookie, dominating matchups on the line of scrimmage, routinely blowing up running plays, running down guys from behind and generally impressing at every turn.  He capped a stellar year by winning the NFL Defensive Rookie Of the Year Award.  Richardson followed that up with an even more impressive sophomore campaign, making an arguable case for being the best interior defensive lineman whose name doesn't sound something like what?  What?

Then the troubles began.  Richardson missed the first four games of the 2015 season due to a drug infraction.  When he came back Richardson had arguably the least effective year of his career, averaging a career low 3.2 tackles per game.  After the 2015 season Richardson had another run in with league disciplinary officials in connection with a traffic offense, and he again served a suspension to start the 2016 season, although this year it was only for one game.

In 2016 Richardson has been very active, averaging 4.6 tackles per game, his best mark since his rookie season.  However Richardson has failed to get to the quarterback much.  He is currently on pace in 2016 for the lowest single season sack total of his NFL career.

Here are Richardson's statistics for his NFL career.

Year

Tackles

Assists

Sacks

Passes Defended

Forced Fumbles

.

2013

42

35

3.5

1

1

2014

42

24

8.0

1

1

2015

20

15

5.0

2

2

2016

29

12

1.5

1

0

Sheldon Richardson wants to get paid.  He thinks he is worth top dollar for NFL defensive linemen.  Perhaps he is, but his production thus far has not been indicative of that.  Richardson has always been more potential than production. He has been a very good defensive lineman, but watching him play you feel like he should be better.  For all the hype about how good Richardson is, he has never approached double digit sacks. In fact he has only had more than five sacks in a season once.  Sure, sacks aren't necessarily the best measure of success for defensive linemen, but fairly or unfairly, sacks get you paid.  If Richardson wants to get paid as much as he indicates, he's going to have to generate more of a pass rush. Shutting down the run just doesn't generate the same kind of pay check in the NFL.

Sunday's game against the New England Patriots provides an excellent opportunity for Richardson to earn his expected giant pay raise.  Richardson has more sacks against the Patriots than he has against all but one other team in the NFL.  He has registered a sack on Tom  Brady in each of his last three games against the Patriots. There aren't a lot of good options in trying to limit Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, but getting pressure, especially from the interior, ranks high among them.  Give Brady time and he will relentlessly pick you apart. Get consistent pressure on him and, like every other quarterback, he will begin to give your defense the opportunity to make plays. Now would be a great time for Sheldon to begin to earn the giant pay check he yearns for and register a sack or two while putting pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady all game long.

The Patriots have a reasonably effective but hardly dominant running game.  The Jets excellent run defense should be able to effectively limit New England's rushing attack.  If Richardson, Leonard Williams and the rest of the Jets pass rush can get to Brady repeatedly, maybe, just maybe, this could be an interesting football game.

Sheldon Richardson wants to get paid.  That may or may not happen with the Jets. Wherever Richardson ends up signing his next contract, the dollar figures on the deal will be a good bit higher if Richardson starts racking up the sacks.  There is no better time to start doing so than against all time great quarterback Tom Brady and the prolific New England Patriots offense.   This is the time for Sheldon Richardson to excel.  This is an opportunity for a breakout performance from Richardson, a chance to remind the Jets just how much they may be missing if they choose not to retain his services.  If we see Richardson being a force in the running game, making tackles all over the field and being a disruptive force in collapsing the pocket then the Jets just might have a shot at pulling off a huge upset against the Patriots.   Richardson could prove to be a pivotal player in this game, if he lives up to his enormous potential.   This is Sheldon Richardson's time in the spotlight.  This is his time to earn the giant gobs of money he craves.  This is his chance to help the Jets earn a stunning upset in an otherwise dismal season.  Time to rise and shine on Sunday Sheldon.