Richards stepped in for an Atlanta secondary that was ravaged by injuries, filling a vital role after starting safeties Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) went down early in the year. A former second-round pick of New England who was traded to Atlanta within a week of the season opener, Richards nearly doubled his previous career high by picking up 12 starts for a Falcons defense that ranked 27th against the pass in 2018. Richards' rookie contract expires this winter, leaving the front office with a decision to make on a player who ranked as the NFL's 64th-best safety this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. With the team's two starting safeties on injured reserve, Atlanta was forced to call upon an experienced defensive back in Richards, who has started in just seven of 45 career appearances. The fourth-year man demonstrated a nose for the football by collecting seven tackles, but Ben Roethlisberger generated his second-highest passer rating of the season (112.7) while completing a healthy 65.5 percent of his attempts for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Atlanta's secondary has been torched for 330 passing yards and three touchdowns per game since Week 2.
Head coach Dan Quinn said Wednesday that Richards is a candidate to become the Falcons' primary in-the-box safety with Keanu Neal (knee) on injured reserve, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
It's nearly impossible to replace a Pro Bowl-caliber safety midseason, but that is exactly what the Falcons aim to do over the remainder of this so-far injury-riddled campaign. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel will blend the abilities of remaining safeties on the depth chart to keep opposing offenses in check. He'll look to mix and match his healthy players to take advantage of the run enforcement that Richards offers, Damontae Kazee's propensity to generate turnovers, as well as Ricardo Allen's skills in pass coverage.
|2015||New England Patriots||14||20||16.0||4||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||2|
|2016||New England Patriots||11||3||1.0||2||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|2017||New England Patriots||16||26||23.0||3||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||1|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|
|2015||New England Patriots||14||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|2016||New England Patriots||11||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||0|
|2017||New England Patriots||16||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0|