Rich Cimini is the latest to preview the defensive line over at ESPN New York. While he agrees that this is “the youngest and most athletic defensive line” the Jets have fielded during the Rex Ryan era, he also expresses concern about the role for his “player to watch”:
The Jets’ scouts were so high on Richardson (No. 13 overall pick) that they rated him fourth on their draft board. He’s an athletic lineman with a terrific motor, and he’s expected to play a key role on the revamped line. The question is, does he fit Rex Ryan’s 3-4 base defense?
Bent, TheJetsBlog.comMy response: Does it matter? The Jets had five or more defensive backs in the game over half the time last year and when they did operate with a front seven, approximately half of the time they did so with a four man front. In fact, a lot of the time when they did operate with three men on the line and four linebackers standing, the formation had more in common with a 4-3 under or 4-3 over formation with the weakside pass rusher just standing up. This would typically only require the nose tackle to play a two-gapping role.
Richardson’s versatility is a good thing and we should have learned by now that Rex’s system is flexible enough to find a role for anyone that plays to their strengths. Even if he does struggle to adapt to playing in the 3-4, he’s not going to play every snap, so they’ll be able to rotate him in and out for those defenses in which he can excel.
Jets fans will all be hoping that Richardson can live up to the hype. However, the exciting thing is that Richardson is not the only versatile player on the defense and they all bring different things to the table.