Richardson Providing Potent Complement

Posted Oct 17, 2012

For the better part of the nine years Steven Jackson has been the Rams feature back, there has been much caterwauling about the lack of a legitimate backup capable of complementing Jackson or even filling in capably when he was injured.

Through six weeks, it seems, the Rams have finally found their man in one of the most unexpected of places.

Daryl Richardson was a seventh round pick by the Rams in April out of tiny Abilene Christian. He didn’t have an overwhelming resume or gaudy statistics and he wasn’t even the team’s first running back taken in the draft – they selected Isaiah Pead in the second round – but that hasn’t stopped him from quickly becoming the ideal counterpunch to teams loading up to stop the powerful Jackson.

“I think he’s getting more and more comfortable,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “You see less mental errors in practice. He’s playing faster. You see all the little detail things that you want him doing, with little calls and stuff that he’s making. That’s exciting to see.

“Daryl is a great change of pace. We’re going to try to keep people off balance.”

The soft-spoken Richardson entered the offseason program and training camp with zero pre-conceived notions about what his role would be with his new team. For most backs selected where he was, the initial season consists of special teams, special teams and more special teams.

But it didn’t take long for the Rams to see they had something just plain special in Richardson. Practice after practice he flashed the type of explosive speed that could harmonize Jackson’s bruising style.

By the time the season started, Richardson had earned the No. 2 running back spot and, after filling in admirably for Jackson in week 2 when he left with a groin injury, his role has only continued to grow.

Last week against Miami, Richardson and Jackson worked in what essentially amounted to a time share as Jackson carried 12 times and Richardson 11 as the Rams posted their best rushing output of the season with 162 yards while averaging 6 yards per attempt.

Richardson is a bit surprised that his role has expanded so quickly but it’s also not something that’s been too much for him to handle.

“I can’t say imagined it but I always had that mindframe that I would try to come in here and work hard and whatever happens, happens,” Richardson said.

What’s happening is Richardson is developing into an integral part of the Rams offense nearly as fast as he can turn the corner on a pitch out.

Through the first six weeks, Richardson has rushed 47 times for 246 yards, an average of 5.2 yards per attempt. The rushing total ranks fourth among rookie running backs behind Washington’s Alfred Morris, Cleveland’s Trent Richardson and Tampa’s Doug Martin, all of whom are their teams’ top rushing option.

Richardson credits Jackson for taking him under his wing and showing him the ropes so he feels more comfortable. Jackson regularly provides Richardson a ride home, including Tuesday afternoon and hasn’t hesitated to help his young teammate along the way.

“He’s great,” Richardson said. “He always helps me.”

With each passing week, Richardson seems to settle in more and more. Upon his arrival in St. Louis, one area he wanted to improve was his pass protection and blitz pickup skills.

Listed at 5’10, 196 pounds, Richardson is one of the smaller players on the Rams roster but he’s proved more than willing to stick his nose in and help in pass protection. The next step is being more on point with when and where to do it though coach Jeff Fisher has no qualms about giving him any opportunity.

“He’s doing fine,” Fisher said. “Daryl has a good feel for what we’re doing and really have no reservation whatsoever putting him in in any situation.”

Already, Richardson is considered one of the fastest players on the team along with rookie wideout Chris Givens. Like Givens, Richardson found himself stunned when he was unable to score a touchdown on a 44-yard burst down the right sideline against Miami last week.

It appeared that Miami safety Reshad Jones had an angle on Richardson as he took off down the sideline but the rookie back had no intention to make an excuse for not finding the end zone on the run.

In fact, Richardson has been a target of jokes by his teammates this week for not scoring. He’s taking it in stride and said with a serious tone that he needs to “be faster.”

For now, the more opportunities he gets, the more likely Richardson believes he is to continue to improve.

“I just get in the game when my time is called and try to play to the best of my ability,” Richardson said. “It’s slowing down a little bit. It’s not as fast and when it’s not as fast, you can be better, get in more of a groove.”

After last week’s contest against the Dolphins, Richardson, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., heard from a mutual friend of Miami center Mike Pouncey that the Dolphins were impressed with the Rams running back tandem.

It’s probably a bit early to give Richardson and Jackson a nickname but there have been positive reactions to the early returns on something involving Thunder and Lightning.

In the meantime, the hope remains that they can just continue to churn out yards on the ground.

“We have got a great 1-2 punch right now with Richardson and the big fella and it can be dangerous,” fullback Brit Miller said. “Hopefully this is what we’ll continue to do.”

CHANGE UP: In a normal NFL week, players spend Monday reviewing the film from the previous day’s game, going through the corrections and maybe doing a stretching session. That’s traditionally been what the Rams have done on a normal Monday this season.

But they changed it up a little bit this week after Sunday’s game in Miami. Fisher gave the team the day off for the most part on Monday and there was no media availability. On Tuesday, which is normally the players day off, ContinuityX Training Center was hopping with action and enthusiasm as the Rams began preparation for this week’s game against Green Bay.

“It was a time to come in and talk about a lot of things,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “And definitely get a jump start on Green Bay and look at the film and also look at our previous film and go from there.”

INJURY REPORT:  The Rams went through their Wednesday practice without any real surprises on the injury report though there were a couple of noteworthy additions.

Tackle Rodger Saffold (knee), receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder) and linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh) did not practice again. That trio is not expected to be available this week.

Elsewhere, tackle Wayne Hunter (back) and Janoris Jenkins (back) also did not participate. Neither injury is believed to be more than stiffness.