Sheldon Richardson started out the season hot against Tampa Bay and never let up. Credit: Getty Images
The proof is in the pudding in regards to Sheldon Richardson being the top defensive rookie in the league, so says Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
The rah-rah Ryan is usually effusive in his praise of his players but on Wednesday he backed up his love for Richardson with hard evidence. More than just opinion or conjecture, Ryan offered solid proof why the No. 13 overall pick is in his mind deserving of an award.
This was not the first time Ryan has lobbied for Richardson to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year winner. And it likely won't be the last for the obviously enamored head coach.
“I just look at the film and base it off production. The production is a huge part of it. But the way he plays, he's got that relentless motor. Being a defensive tackle and being as productive as he is. It doesn't necessarily show in the sack total, he's got three and a half or something,” Ryan said. “He's had 28 hits on the quarterback or something like that and the way he's planned screen games. His tackles are among the leader in the league for defensive linemen. So I think with that, the tape doesn't lie.”
When Richardson was on the Jets' draft board, the team was drawn to him because of his athleticism but also his versatility. In college, he played on the interior and on the edge as well as even one game at linebacker.
Ryan called his rookie season a “tremendous year.” Richardson has 66 tackles and the aforementioned 3 1/2 sacks. He is also second on the team with 11 tackles for loss.
“The reason why we took Sheldon — it was different than what we had — but he would provide us with that real athletic guy you can play in a 3-4 [defense], fit 4-3 penetrating-type guy,” Ryan said. “That's what we were looking for. That's why we took him.”