Sheldon Richardson Dominant Against Bengals, Will He Keep It Up?
Sheldon Richardson was one of the most impactful players for the Cleveland Browns in getting their first win against the Cincinnati Bengals. He showcased all of the tools at his disposal, including power, agility and speed. Richardson sees the game well and will occasionally see what's coming from the offense, allowing him to beat them to the punch.
Nothing Richardson showed against the Bengals is anything new. Richardson has always been special in terms of what he's capable, including his time when he dominated for the University of Missouri or his rookie year with the New York Jets, winning defensive player of the year honors.
The issue for Richardson has always been consistency. And in this respect, it's interesting that the Browns were so determined in their pursuit of Jadeveon Clowney in free agency, because Richardson is the defensive tackle version. Remarkably gifted athletes that can completely take over a game, but will frustrate with the infrequency in which it happens.
Statistically, Richardson had a sack and a pair of tackles for loss against the Bengals, but he also created a ton of pressure on the interior, which is ideal for what the Browns have. Eliminating space up the middle, potentially forcing quarterbacks to drop further back makes it easier for edge rushers because it limits their options for escape. With Myles Garrett on the edge, that's going to lead to good things for the Browns.
Richardson was good against the Ravens as well, though it's not reflected as much statistically, where he only had one tackle.
This year in training camp, Richardson was disruptive and almost singlehandedly dismantled some offensive team periods because of what he was able to do, even against blockers like Joel Bitonio.
So far, Richardson looks like he's focused on having the most complete season of his career. Whether that's simply his own mindset, reaching an age where he realizes he may have only so many opportunities left, a belief in what this team can be, the competition around him pushing him or something else, he looks impressive through two weeks.
Given what Garrett already does and the contribution the team is getting from Larry Ogunjobi this year, it's becoming really difficult to stop the Browns defensive line. Ogunjobi is a player that always had this type of ability, but in the past, has worn down over the course of the year.
Fortunately, rookie Jordan Elliott is flashing enough that he has been a valuable rotational option early. If he can continue that or improve upon it, the whole group can stay fresher and continue to make an impact later in the season.
This is all before accounting for Olivier Vernon, Porter Gustin and Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn has already made his presence felt with the Browns and Gustin is increasingly getting more opportunities to impact the game.
Should Richardson continue to be able to impact games the way he has the first two weeks of the season, the Browns defensive front can stop the run, impact the pass and get more out of the back end of the defense than they otherwise might be capable.