We continue our countdown of the Jets roster today by looking at Sheldon Richardson.
Name: Sheldon Richardson
Year with Jets: 5th
Projected Role: Starting defensive lineman playing multiple spots along the line
His 2016: The word fiasco comes to mind when we talk about Richardson’s fourth season in the league. It started with a suspension stemming from his 2015 arrest in Missouri. It also included an embarrassing Snapchat video and him openly bashing a teammate in public. Sometimes you put up with players who create headaches provided they perform at a high level on the field. That was not the case with Richardson. He actually did have his moments against the run, but he only registered 1.5 sacks and had multiple games with zero tackles. Based on his own words, Richardson seems to think of himself as a star, but his work on the field in his latest season begs to differ.
The reasons for his decline have been hotly debated. In today’s world it seems there can never be any degree of nuance. I have seen people argue it is all the coaching staff’s fault for playing him in a less than optimal role. I think it is tough to debate this is part of the reason. Richardson has played the edge much more frequently in his last two years than he did in his first two years. Is it only the coaching staff, though?
The narrative sounds good, but Rich Cimini recently posted a chart that pokes some holes into it. The chart notes that Richardson’s snaps at defensive tackle actually went up from 180 in 2015 to 231 in 2016. His snaps at nose tackle went up from 9 to 27. His snaps standing up at outside linebacker went down from 158 to 76. Why then did his sacks go down from 5 in 11 games in 2015 to 1.5 in 15 games in 2016?
Sure, he was playing on the edge too much. The edge snap count numbers were higher and interior totals lower than his Pro Bowl 2014 The 387 snaps he played at defensive end in 2016 might have been too many, but why would his pass rushing ability fall off a cliff if he got more opportunities at his natural spot in 2016 than in 2015?
There has to be some degree of nuance here. Saying that some of Richardson’s lack of production is his fault does not mean the coaching staff bears no blame. It means Richardson has to be accountable for his own contribution to his struggles.
2017 will be a success if: Richardson does everything the opposite on and off the field to the way he did in 2016. The Jets need him to be a Pro Bowler on the field and a leader for a young team in the locker room. If his childish comments early in OTA’s are any indication, he is off to a bad start. Of course, he might not even make it to this season on the team.
The Jets are in a real dilemma here. He is set to be a free agent after the season. Even if Richardson does return to Pro Bowl form, he spent two years showing the team he probably isn’t worthy of a major contract. How much could you believe in a guy who only shows up in a contract year when he is fighting for a payday? There have been rumors for some time about the Jets potentially trading Richardson, and it isn’t hard to see why. If you trade him now, you at least can get something in return rather than letting him leave in free agency and get nothing. It feels like the logical move to me. Whether the Jets will see it that way is anybody’s guess.
Odds of making the roster: 50/50 (accounting for the possibility of a trade)