The experiment at outside linebacker is over, but Sheldon Richardson is not bidding good riddance to his time on the outside.
"I actually enjoyed it, you know. I didn't get to make as many plays as I do inside," Richardson said after a recent OTA. "You know, I'm forcing everything back inside. You see the development in Leo as I see in this offseason right now, so it helped him out a lot, but it also helped me out too. Humbling experience."
Richardson, who racked up five sacks and 19 QB hurries in just 11 contests last season, is most likely done at linebacker. The Jets plan on using him predominantly back up front along the defensive line in a three-point stance rather than standing up on the outside.
"We sure hope so," said defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers when asked if Richardson had completed his service at OLB. "But in all fairness to him, I don't think we give him a lot of credit for what we ask him to do — to be a 300-pound defensive lineman to line up at Will linebacker for us and play it at a high level."
The 6'3" Richardson said he actually played last season at 320 pounds. Although effective at that weight, he would like to play closer to the 300-pound mark next season.
"I'm at 310 right now and want to play at 305, 300," he said. "I want to come to camp at 300 and just put on some lean muscle and mass it all up."
Team Takes the Field After Memorial Day Weekend
The Jets will once again feature one of the most talented defensive fronts in football. Richardson is an athletic freak with rare physical traits, Muhammad Wilkerson is coming off a 12-sack campaign and Leonard Williams, a first-round selection who tallied 72 tackles as a rookie along with a team-high 32 QB hurries, is coming into his own as well.
"He is getting off blocks better, his pass rush is getting up there," Richardson said of Williams. "But that comes with chemistry. That comes with the coordination of him and his defensive linemen. He's talking a lot more, knowing what's going on. When you're a rookie, you want to go hit somebody so the game has slowed down in that way."
After NT Damon Harrison went crosstown to the Giants in free agency, the Jets responded with the signings of veterans Jarvis Jenkins and Steve McLendon. While the 26-year-old Jenkins, who tallied four sacks in 15 games for the Bears last season, will provide depth, McLendon is expected to line up at the nose in base looks.
"He's more of a non-talker," Richardson said of McLendon. "He will talk to the D-linemen of course. Just a country boy, he's chill, he's laid back. He mentions what we do differently here and he says he just loves it here. He says they have everything here in the building for you, like massages on Fridays, that you would have to go outside the building for in Pittsburgh."
Richardson won't be going outside much in 2016. Just 25 with a non-stop motor, he is a unique talent who can wreak havoc on the inside in this defense.
"Second year with the same coaches and coordinators, same system. Changed up a few things, but other than that I'm pretty sure we are going to be blitzing like we were," he said. "Guys are just better in the system. We went from two-gapping to a one-gapping last year. And certain plays and formations we've got to two-gap in, but other than that it's just up-the-field ball."