In Week 1 of the 2016 season, running back Jalen Richard entered his first career NFL game. The first time he got the ball, he took it 75 yards to the end zone. He’s been a mainstay of the Las Vegas Raiders’ backfield ever since.
The one constant in the Raiders backfield has been Jalen Richard
Richard and the Raiders have gone through ups and downs together the last four seasons. He played well as a rookie in the 2016 season when the Raiders made the playoffs but has struggled along with the team as a whole since. With DeAndre Washington now playing in Kansas City, Richard projects to stay in Sin City at least another year.
Everybody knows how electrifying Josh Jacobs is, and before him, Latavius Murray wasn’t half bad. Richard has never had the chance to be the focus back, and he probably never will. With that said, Richard absolutely thrives as a secondary back, so let’s take a look at some of the things he does well.
First, Richard has some pop for his small stature. He stands at just 5’8″, but weighs in at 210 lbs. and is able to push a linebacker 3-4 yards after contact. He has a low center of gravity, which makes it easier to run through weak tackles. Just watch Richard drop Kiko Alonso in the play below.
@pillagejust4fun Jalen Richard 5’8 205, Kilo Alonso 6’3 233. That is how you blitz pick up my man 💪 Richard cleans his clot 😂 If only we had a Good RT the pocket is clean. T J Clemmings has no idea 🤦♂️ never has .
Carr is not going to last the season with RT play like that pic.twitter.com/SMCRI0bC4j
— Bionic_Raider (@RaiderBionic) September 24, 2018
That play is a great example of the power Richard has. He’s very strong for his size, and because of his strength, he’s actually very good in between the tackles. His low center of gravity makes it harder for bigger defenders to bring him down. The Raiders do have Josh Jacobs, so they don’t utilize Richard in between the tackles, but he shows his strength in situations like the one above.
Another thing that makes Richard a good running back is his vision. He sees things before they develop. His sight makes him a great runner in between the tackles, and in the open field he does a great job of setting up blocks.
Not that you'd ever listen to me or even know who I am, but if James White leaves town and Jalen Richard is available?
Bring him in…
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) December 3, 2018
The play above is a perfect example of his vision. Richard reads the blocks at the line of scrimmage perfectly. A lot of running backs would have seen the defensive end get around the outside, and they would have tried to bounce outside or cutback.
Instead, Richard reads it well and hits the open hole right behind the pulling guard. He reads the block by Jared Cook well, and cuts it inside. Jalen then splits the defenders to pick up the first down. This play is all Richard, and this is a prime example of how much his vision helps him.
The next two things I’m gonna talk about relate to the passing game. Richard is terrific in all forms of the passing game, but something he doesn’t get enough credit for is his blocking. Specifically, his blitz pickup.
Such an underrated part of Jalen Richard’s game and undoubtedly a major factor in his new contract is his pass blocking.
So many of #Raiders big plays this year were made by a Jalen Richard blitz pickup. #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/HeaF6zOF6V
— Ryan☠️Hurst (@Raider_Ryan1) February 5, 2020
Play the clip above at the 22 second mark, and you’ll see exactly why I love Richard. Every play in the video was only able to happen because Richard was able to block an incoming linebacker. Pass blocking is unfortunately a thing running backs don’t get enough credit for, but plays like this are the difference between a sack, or a 20-yard completion to move the chains. You can thank Richard for that.
With that said, something Richard does get a lot of recognition for is his receiving abilities. The Raiders use the running back in the passing game a lot, and there’s a reason he’s one of Carr’s favorite weapons.
RB Jalen Richard (@RocketRich30) was big part of passing game last year. Nice play design to get him 1-1 in space vs LB on this angle route. Richard just needs to beat the LB across his face which he does easily. Middle of field opens up for big gain.#Raiders #Raidernation pic.twitter.com/kRaKE5I3NZ
— Ryan Holmes (@Rholm22) October 31, 2019
Because he’s a running back, when Richard lines up as a receiver he will almost always be covered by a linebacker, like he is in the play above. The play design from Gruden is great, and it creates open space for this mismatch. Richard is way too quick to be covered by a linebacker, and he shows it on this play. Richard is a matchup nightmare.
I’ve gone over a few of the things Richard has done well, including his strength, vision, and his blocking and passing abilities. He’ll easily be overshadowed by Jacobs, and that makes sense because Jacobs is the engine behind the Raiders’ offense. However, Richard adds a ton of intangible things to the Silver and Black’s offense, and he really should get a lot for recognition from Raider Nation for all that he does.
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