jalen richard

Is the Raiders’ Jalen Richard the next Ray Rice?

RaiderRamble.com breaks down Raiders running back Jalen Richard; the next big thing?

Jalen Richard’s story is truly that of an underdog as he was signed by the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 NFL draft. The rookie was pretty mediocre at best during his college career at Southern Mississippi as he rushed for over 1,000 only once during his four years with the Golden Eagles.

During his rookie season, Richard was forced to fight for playing time behind Latavius Murray with the Raider’s 2016 5th round pick DeAndre Washington. However, it didn’t take long for Richard to earn his stripes when in week one versus the Saints, he ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run that many Raider fans won’t forget. During that game, Richard led all running backs in yards, both Raiders’ and Saints’, with 84 on only three attempts. Proceeding Week One, it was evident Reggie McKenzie had once again discovered a diamond in the rough.

After watching Richards highlights, I immediately realized he reminded me of one particular running back that I always enjoyed watching: Ray Rice. Now, I will not be deciphering Rice’s off the field issues that cost him his job, nor am I drawing any comparison to Jalen Richard’s behavior to that of Ray Rice’s, this article is to purely draw comparisons from one rookie’s game to that of a running back that was truly gifted, but unfortunately derailed his own legacy through his own efforts. To get started, let’s look at how each back performed during their rookie campaigns:

  • Ray Rice – Height: 5’8″ Weight: 212 pounds Rookie Stats: 454 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns. 273 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns.
  • Jalen Richard – Height: 5’8″ Weight: 207 pounds Rookie Stats: 491 rushing yards, one touchdown. 194 receiving yards, two touchdowns.

The first thing that stands out is each player’s size. Not many people standing at 5’8″ can withstand the beating that players receive while playing in the NFL, much less pounding the rock play after play and having linebackers like 6’3″ 235 pound Luke Kuechly bringing the lumber in every hit. However, in this first clip as you can see both players aren’t afraid to bring the hammer.

In this instance, both runners are able to use the combination of their short stature and weight to punch through the initial hit of bigger defenders and pick up extra yards.

In this next video, we see both backs’ excellent vision:

Both plays start as weak side runs, but as both players realize, the blocking has broken down and are able to adjust immediately. In Richard’s instance, he runs completely parallel with the line of scrimmage to get to the opposite side of the field and turn a dead play into a big run. Again, at the end of Richard’s run, he’s not afraid to lay a hit on the defender.

In the next video, we see a signature move done by both backs at the end of long open field runs; something you could call the “Shake N’ Bake”:

Both players use a choppy feat to keep defenders on their heels just enough to allow them to pick up five to ten extra yards after contact at the end of the run. Once again, their size plays a major role in their running; their shorter stature allows them to take more compact strides when they run, which in turn allows them to juke much easier even when they’re running full speed.

Next, we see how dangerous both players are catching passes out of the backfield:

Both players devour the opposing linebackers who are no match for the running backs’ speed in the open field. Their ability to provide a safety blanket for their quarterbacks makes them a dual-threat on the field.

Finally, we see both runners ability to make a single cut and reach that second gear getting upfield:

Their small size allows them to squeeze through tight lanes in both the trenches and at the second level. Also, it’s very easy for them to sneak around defenders running behind their mammoth offensive lineman.

Final Thoughts

Both running backs possess very similar skill sets when it comes to running the football. However, it is important to mention both players do even better when they have running lanes being opened up for them, like the ones we just saw, by their excellent offensive line. Likewise, their ability to make big plays using their combination of size, speed, and vision makes each player a dangerous, one-man wrecking crew. It’s worth mentioning that Oakland Raider’s DeAndre Washington also possess many of the same qualities both backs have put on display here and could make it a tough decision down the road if Oakland’s faced with the possibility of keeping one over the other. Either way, it is a good dilemma for Oakland to have. True, we cannot be too quick to judge a single season, but in my opinion, Richard has displayed many of the same qualities and traits to become the next Ray Rice-type running back.

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