The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots' offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp starts in late July – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at strong safety Jordan Richards.
Name: Jordan Richards
Position: Strong safety
Jersey number: 37
Size: 5'11, 210 lbs.
2015 review: With their second selection of the 2015 NFL draft (pick 64, round 2), the Patriots opted to take a safety out of Stanford. One, that was rather known for his smarts and leadership skills than his athletic abilities or college numbers, but one that nevertheless had a successful rookie year: Jordan Richards.
Richards was the Patriots’ number four safety in 2015 and saw most of his time as a nickel or dime substitute. Overall, he played 16 of a possible 18 games and 19.2% of New England’s defensive snaps. Richards finished his rookie campaign with 15 tackles while allowing 5 of 12 passes thrown his way to be completed (for 48 yards and two touchdowns) and forcing a fumble.
While he was used sparingly on defense, Richards was actually one of only six Patriots to play more than 50% of the team’s special teams snaps.
2016 preview: Given his draft status and rookie season, the question is not whether Richards will make New England’s 2016 roster or not – he is a lock to do that – but rather what his role and responsibilities will look like. Namely, will he see more time on defense besides his work on special teams?
With the Patriots having a talented and young secondary that returns all of its starters and top backups from last season, Richards’ chances of playing substantially more defensive snaps do currently not look too good. After all, just like last year, he is projected to be the fourth safety on the depth chart behind Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon.
However, if Richards has a good summer and continues his growth as a defender, he might challenge Harmon for playing time and consequently force the coaching staff to rotate its number three safeties on a more regular basis. Therefore, with Harmon possibly leaving the team as a free agent after the year, Richards would get used to his projected future role sooner rather than later.
Jordan Richards has had a very solid rookie season in Foxboro. With yet another year under his belt, his growth is expected to continue and as a result he might get more chances to become a regular contributor on defense – preparing him for the role he probably will take over in 2017.