Jets tackle Sheldon Richardson relishes role as running back

Sheldon Richardson
Sheldon Richardson, back row, second from left, has been more productive than Joe McKnight, who was cut this preseason.
Credit: New York Jets/Kristian Dyer

Even before his 2-yard touchdown run this past Sunday, there was a plan dating back to this summer for Jets rookie defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson to get carries in the backfield. And now there is photographic evidence to back it up.

The Jets handed out their positional photos to players on Friday, with shots of the different units posed by position. Richardson had a photo with the rest of the defensive lineman where he is on one knee flanked by the likes of Damon Harrison, Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples.

But there is another photo lying on the floor immediately outside of Richardson’s locker, one of him with the rest of the running backs. It was taken in the summer.

“I had a couple plays in the playbook. So I asked [running backs coach] Anthony Lynn and he was OK with it. Yeah, he was cool with it,” Richardson told Metro. “He said he was OK with it so I was more than happy to pose with them and bring my handsomeness to the offensive side of the ball.”

Richardson easily dwarfs the rest of the group, including fellow draft pick Tommy Bohannon to his right.

Richardson has two carries this year, both from the Panthers game last Sunday and he’s been used in goal-line situations as a blocking fullback. A front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, he is a freakish athlete who also played a game in college at linebacker.

At the time, running back Bilal Powell was teasing Richardson about taking the team photo with the rest of the backfield.

“Sheldon is an outgoing personality, a big personality,” Powell said. “I guess he felt obligated to do it since he had a play or two in that playbook for him.”

There is no denying this has been a big year for the rookie Richardson, as he has turned heads with his play both at the 3-technique and at times coming off the edge. It seemed like an embarrassment of riches for the Jets when they used a first-round pick on him, given they had taken pass rushers Wilkerson and Coples in the first round of the last two drafts. But Richardson has added another dynamic and versatile element to the defensive line.

He is fourth on the team with 70 tackles and third with 3 1/2 sacks.

As Richardson stood outside his locker, with his left leg up on his stool as he unwrapped athletic tape from his right hand following Friday’s practice, he looked at the position photos spread out on the floor.

“Maybe I will be with the tight ends next year too, I don’t know,” Richardson said with a laugh. “Nah, two of these is good.

“For now.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


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