Ver­sa­til­ity could pay off for Jets' Richard­son

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

Shel­don Richard­son will play wher­ever the New York Jets want him to. And, he knows he’ll even­tu­ally get paid for it, too. Richard­son has played this sea­son on the de­fen­sive line and at out­side line­backer.

Shel­don Richard­son will play wher­ever the New York Jets want him to.

And, he knows he’ll even­tu­ally get paid for it, too.

Richard­son has played this sea­son on the de­fen­sive line and at out­side line­backer, likely los­ing some game-chang­ing sack op­por­tu­ni­ties in the pro­cess. His ver­sa­til­ity, how­ever, will be a sell­ing point af­ter next sea­son. That’s when Richard­son will be due a con­tract ex­ten­sion from the Jets — or hit the open mar­ket as a big-name free agent.

“I think it’ll give me more money, just to be hon­est,” Richard­son said about play­ing in mul­ti­ple spots on the de­fense. “My film don’t lie. You took a three-tech­nique (line­man) that was drafted in the first round and put him at out­side line­backer and he held his own.

“That’s just build­ing up a re­sume for that.”

Since be­ing drafted No. 13 over­all out of Mis­souri in 2013, Richard­son has es­tab­lished him­self as a force on de­fense — first for Rex Ryan and now for Todd Bowles — mostly as a 3-4 line­man.

He was the NFL De­fen­sive Rookie of the Year with 3 ½ sacks, and fol­lowed that up with eight in his sec­ond sea­son and made the Pro Bowl. Richard­son’s third sea­son got off to a late start af­ter he was sus­pended the first four games for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL’s sub­stance abuse pol­icy. Less than two weeks af­ter re­ceiv­ing that news, Richard­son was ar­rested in Mis­souri af­ter driv­ing a car at high speeds and re­sist­ing ar­rest. That got him a one-game sus­pen­sion at the start of this sea­son.

In be­tween that rocky third year and this sea­son, Richard­son ac­cepted help and talked through his is­sues and also be­came a fa­ther. He has at­trib­uted his fo­cus and ma­tu­rity to his im­proved life out­look, cred­it­ing his fam­ily and team­mates and friends for help­ing him. Big things are ex­pected again this year on the field, even if the num­bers are slightly down. He has 31 tack­les and 1 ½ sacks af­ter play­ing quite a bit at line­backer be­cause of the Jets’ depth on the line with Muham­mad Wilk­er­son, Leonard Wil­liams and Steve McLen­don. But with Wilk­er­son out last week against Bal­ti­more with a sore an­kle, Richard­son was back as a 3-4 de­fen­sive end and had a solid per­for­mance with a sack and three tack­les for loss. He also played with a heavy heart, an­nounc­ing af­ter the 24-16 win that an un­cle had re­cently been killed.

“Last week was my first week play­ing the end,” Richard­son said. “It was just that. Since this regime came in, ac­tu­ally.”

Bowles said Richard­son “can play good” wher­ever he is put on the de­fense, but didn’t nec­es­sar­ily buy the no­tion that he might be play­ing too much at line­backer.

“He plays de­fen­sive end,” Bowles said.

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