Bent, TheJetsBlog.comOn Friday, the Jets announced that they had claimed running back Daryl Richardson off waivers from the St. Louis Rams. Jets fans might not know too much about Richardson, so I’ll be looking at game footage to try and determine what he brings to the table.
Richardson is a 24-year old former 7th round pick, who has accumulated 974 yards from scrimmage in two NFL seasons. He was a backup as a rookie but won a starting job in 2013. However, he was dealing with a toe injury that affected his performance and eventually cut his season short after eight games. Richardson was waived by the Rams last week, after they had drafted Tre Mason in the third round of the draft. With Richardson out, another rookie – Zac Stacy – had established himself as worthy of a full time role alongside Isaiah Pead, making Richardson surplus to requirements.
After the jump, I’ll be reviewing Richardson’s career so far and looking at footage from last year to try and assess some of his strengths and weaknesses.
Who is Daryl Richardson?
The 5’10” 196-pound Richardson – a cousin of Jets wide receiver Clyde Gates – started to make a name for himself after transferring to Alibene Christian. He really started to get some draft buzz after an impressive performance at their pro day, where he ran a 4.47 forty yard dash and displayed a 40.5″ vertical jump. Even more impressively, he had a 135″ broad jump – more than any player at this year’s scouting combine.
The Rams selected him in the 7th round and put him in a competition with his fellow rookie Pead to back up Steven Jackson. Richardson responded well, earning some good playing time from the start and eventually averaging 4.8 yards per carry and catching 24 passes. In 2013, the Rams let Jackson go and allowed Richardson and Pead to compete for a starting role. Richardson won the role, but struggled with a toe injury all year and was limited to eight appearances and 3.1 yards per carry.
Richardson was expected to compete with Pead, Mason and Stacy for a role in camp, but the Rams decided to let him go now instead.
Let’s look at Richardson’s numbers, then review what he brings to the table.
16 games (three starts)
167 carries, 690 yards (4.1 ypc)
38 catches, 284 yards (7.5 ypc)
78% catch rate
Three career fumbles (two lost)
24 broken tackles, including eight as a receiver
One penalty committed
Four 20+ yard runs
Two 40+ yard runs
Two sacks, two hits and seven pressures surrendered in 67 pass block snaps
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Here are my observations based on watching footage in detail from the 2012 and 2013 seasons:
Usage - Richardson, as noted, did start three games. When not starting, he was always used in a rotational role rather than entering the game as a third down back. He did, however, see work in the two-minute offense at times. He was mostly employed in the backfield, only going into the slot or out wide a handful of times in each season.
Running Ability – When you watch highlights of Richardson, most of his bigger runs come when he uses his burst and acceleration to turn the corner on the outside. However, that burst can also get him to the second level on runs between the tackles. He doesn’t have great size and won’t break a ton of tackles, but he can make an effective side-step at the second level and seems to read his blocks well.
Although he has that speed to break a long run, I’d question whether he has true breakaway speed because of his lack of touchdowns and the fact that he was caught from behind on most of his longer runs. He did score once in a preseason game as a rookie and also found the end zone on a two-point conversion in his second NFL game.
Richardson doesn’t have a lot of power, but on those runs where he can build up some momentum, he’ll often finish the run by falling forward, especially when tackled by a defensive back.
Pass Protection – While he does lack ideal size, Richardson only gave up two sacks in pass protection in his first two seasons. He had one major issue as a rookie and that was that whenever he was to be targeted for a dump-off underneath, he often did a poor job of slowing down any blitzers, which meant that the quarterback didn’t have time to get the ball to him. He seemed to have corrected that in his second year, but did still give up some pressure with a missed pick-up, a couple of plays where a pass rusher blew past him on the outside and by being rocked back off his spot by a blitzer a few times.
Receiving Threat - Like many of the players the Jets have targeted since Marty Mornhinweg’s arrival, Richardson can do some damage if you get the ball to him in space. However, virtually all of his contributions come on dump-offs and checkdowns. There were two exceptions, one of which was in preseason. On one of those plays, he was initially covered in the flat, but then broke down the sideline when the quarterback rolled out to avoid pressure and gained 17. On the other, he basically ran a wheel route before AJ Hawk could get across and made a catch downfield for 24.
Hands - Richardson doesn’t look uncomfortable catching the ball, but has dropped five passes in two seasons. He had two drops in 2012 (one due to concentration) and three in 2013, but what’s interesting about the drops in 2013 – especially in light of the comments above – was the fact that two of them didn’t come from with him in the backfield. One was a crosser from the slot and the other was a shallow square-in (basically a screen pass) from out wide. His inexperience in these roles showed on those two plays but that was obviously something they’d worked on with him to improve his versatility. His other drop was a costly one though, as you can see here.
Fumbles – Richardson had three fumbles as a rookie – two as a runner and one as a receiver. Two of these were lost but the other bounced out of bounds. He did not fumble in year two. Two of the fumbles saw the ball stripped from his hands as he did a poor job of protecting it. The other was on a helmet-to-elbow bullseye by LaRon Landry, which I would say is easier to excuse. He did seem to protect the ball better in year two.
Short Yardage – Richardson won’t be used in short yardage situations too often, but his burst can be an asset in such situations if you spread out the defense. He did have some short yardage conversions, but all of them saw him make a good cut or accelerate in the hole rather than use power.
Special Teams – Richardson doesn’t have experience as a kick returner and didn’t play on special teams at all so far in the NFL, although he has indicated that he would be willing to do so.
Instincts – Richardson does seem to make pretty good reads and the fact that a lot of those came on simple one-cut plays doesn’t matter because it should fit in with how the Jets play. The fact his average yards per carry dropped so much in his second season can be at least partially attributed to his injuries and there were a lot of plays where he didn’t have anywhere to go. He did show good instincts on that one play where he ran downfield for a catch, but in pass protection his decision making would often leave a lot to be desired. A few times, he had two blitzers coming at him and rather than picking up the first guy to do what he could to buy some time, he hesitated and ended up letting them both beat him on either side.
Injuries – As noted, Richardson was dealing with a turf toe injury throughout 2013, which reportedly limited his acceleration (perhaps his best asset) and his ability to plant and cut. In the second half of the season, he still practiced with the team right up to week 17 but was inactive on game days and ended up the year with a thigh injury, which may have been a cascade injury resulting from the toe. No surgery was planned for his toe as it was expected rest would fix the problem. He had been healthy in 2012.
Ordinarily when evaluating a player, I’ll pay closest attention to the most recent game footage. However, as Richardson was dealing with an injury last season, it may be that the action from his rookie season will provide a more accurate approximation of Richardson’s current capabilities. The Jets will be hoping that this is the case, especially given his better production in that season.
The thing that stands out is the drop-off in terms of yards per carry. In fact, Richardson – despite not being listed with any injuries – struggled at the end of his rookie season, so the reduction is even more pronounced if you compare his first 13 games (5.5 yards per carry) with that of his 11 games since then (2.8).
However, it’s easy to get caught up in that and miss the fact that Richardson did make some strides in his second season. First of all, he set career highs in most snaps (62) and carries (20), displaying an ability to handle a starter’s workload (although this was in the game where he first injured his toe). He also had a five catch game for the first time in his career, then had another the following week. He also caught a pass more than 10 yards downfield for the first time a regular season game, gaining 17. Prior to that, all his receptions were dump-offs or checkdowns. In addition, he didn’t fumble, having done so three times as a rookie. Finally, he increased the percentage of time that he was trusted to stay in for pass protection (from 11% of all snaps or 18% of all pass plays as a rookie to 16% of all snaps or 26% of all pass plays).
With the Rams four deep at the position, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear that Richardson was squeezed out, although comments made by the Rams’ GM Les Snead in January do raise eyebrows:
“We’re all better when we have competition. Daryl’s the type of person, I do know this, when he was inactive he didn’t like that. You do like the fact that he didn’t like that. He’s always said, ‘Hey, I want to start covering kicks and doing things like that.’ He’s trying to find his way back on the 46-man (game-day roster).”
It now looks like the Jets will be the ones to benefit from that competitiveness, if anyone. For Richardson to win a role would be a tall order, especially after the Jets signed Chris Johnson to add to a position where they already have solid contributors in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. However, with Mike Goodson’s legal status still up in the air, there could be a fourth spot up for grabs and throwing another capable player with upside into the mix can only be a good thing.