With opening day still three months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
During workouts and OTAs, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we’ll continue the series with a former second round draft pick.
Name: Jordan Richards
Position: Strong safety
Jersey number: 37
Opening day age: 24
Size: 5’11, 210 lbs.
2016 review: Other second-year players on the Patriots were able to take a step forward in 2016 but Jordan Richards failed to do the same. While he still made New England’s 53-man roster, the former second round pick was buried on the safety depth chart throughout the year.
Overall, Richards was active for 11 of the Patriots’ regular season games and a healthy scratch through the playoffs. When he was on the game day roster, the Stanford product played a mere 18 defensive snaps and failed to show up on the stat sheet. He did, however, saw regular action on special teams and played 151 of a possible 449 snaps (33.6%) in the kicking game.
As a part-time player on all four units, Richards registered three tackles and also was able to recover a fumble. Overall, though, he failed to live up to the natural expectations his draft position brings. Despite winning his first Super Bowl ring, his year can therefore be seen as a disappointment from an individual performance standpoint.
2017 preview: Entering his third season with the Patriots, Richards’ career in New England already appears to be at a crossroads. Having failed to contribute on a regular basis over the course of his first two campaigns in the NFL, the 24-year old needs to prove the value he brings to table – and be it as a versatile backup – over the course of the summer.
If he is able to do that and separate himself from the competition, his role will probably look similar to the one he held in 2016: Barring any injury to the starters at safety – particularly Patrick Chung and even Devin McCourty – Richards will see most of his playing time as a rotational option on special teams. As a result, he might again see only marginal defensive snaps and occasionally be inactive come game day.
He would, however, be on the roster and serve as one of the top options to hear his name called in case of emergeny. If he fails to prove himself a capable potential injury replacement or special teamer, though, Richards might get lost in the numbers game at safety.
While the Patriots did not invest a draft pick in the position, the team signed four undrafted players to provide competition for the depth spots at the position. If anyone of them shows more potential than Richards has so far, the former second rounder might see his tenure in New England might find a premature end; at least on the 53-man roster as he is still eligible for the practice squad.