Each Tuesday of the NFL season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Rookie of the Week. To qualify, the first-year professional player must have played a significant role in a competitive NFL game, demonstrating not just flashes of talent but the potential to emerge as a legitimate long-term standout. The player's draft status -- whether as a former first round pick or undrafted free agent -- does not apply.
Top NFL Rookie of Week 12: New York Jets' DL Sheldon Richardson
Rex Ryan may have quite the dilemma on his hands with highly inconsistent rookie quarterback Geno Smith but the defensive guru can take pride in the play of his club's "other" first-year players, especially Richardson, the Jets' somewhat controversial No. 13 overall pick of the draft.
Richardson wasn't universally regarded as an ideal fit for Ryan's 3-4 scheme after starring in a four-man front at Missouri but the 6-foot-3, 294 pound bowling ball of butcher knives has, in fact, emerged as one of the league's most consistently impressive rookies thus far.
Lining up outside at defensive end while occasionally moving inside over the center, Richardson quietly led the Jets with 7.5 tackles (including six solos) in a losing effort November 24 against the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Richardson also contributed half a sack and frequently forced Baltimore's duo of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce to look for other avenues in the running game, helping limit the Ravens to just 67 rushing yards in their 19-3 victory.
Richardson's quickness, strength and hustle have made him a consistent bright spot in an otherwise topsy-turvy season for the Jets. Against the Ravens, Richardson was especially bothersome. Some of this perhaps can be attributed to Baltimore's season-long struggles with consistency. Another factor may also have been in play, however.
A year ago, Richardson enjoyed arguably his most impressive game against the Alabama Crimson Tide and their vaunted offensive line, recording a game-high 14 tackles in a demonstration of his ability to play "grown man football" against the defending champs.
Richardson and the Jets' ability to control the line of scrimmage forced the Ravens to abandon some of their traditional methods of attack. The team substituted reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco with backup Tyrod Taylor and sprinkled in the Wildcat in an attempt to kickstart their lagging rushing attack. The change in strategy provided little production, however, against the league's stiffest run defense, which a season ago ranked 26th.
Richardson and the Jets host AFC East rival Miami Sunday at 1:00 pm Eastern in a game that can be seen on CBS.
Rookie of the Week Archives:
Week One: Carolina Panthers DT Star Lotulelei
Week Two: Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins
Week Three: New York Jets QB Geno Smith
Week Four: Buffalo Bills ILB Kiko Alonso
Week Five: Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy
Week Six: Detroit Lions TE Joseph Fauria
Week Seven: Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed
Week Eight: Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington
Week Nine: New England Patriots WR Aaron Dobson
Week 10: St. Louis Rams' WR/PR Tavon Austin
Week 11: Oakland Raiders' QB Matt McGloin