Running back Jalen Richard isn’t a starter for the Las Vegas Raiders, but he finds himself on the field often because he does so many things well.
The 5-8, 205-pound Richard, in his fifth season with the Silver and Black after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi in 2016, can’t wait to start displaying his talents in brand-new Allegiant Stadium.
Richard and the other Raiders were impressed when they practiced in their new home for the first time one day last week.
“It’s very impressive,” Richard said of the 65,00-seat stadium, which unfortunately will not be open to fans this season because of precautions over the Coronavirus pandemic. “The yard-keepers for the field have done a really great job; it’s really fast. It’s comfortable. I know a couple of guys thought it was going to be artificial turf, but it turned out to be real grass. So, we’re very excited for this.
“ … I haven’t seen a stadium that looks like this ever. It’s blacked out (from the outside), looks like a nice limousine, or a blacked-out H2 Hummer. It just looks real nice and big and aggressive. Then you get inside and it’s just beautiful from the glass. I kind of walked around before the practice today and saw the little party area, the drinks. Walked around to the club areas and stuff. There wasn’t a piece unturned. Everything was nice and finished well. I’m excited.
“We can’t wait to get in here and play.”
Richard was a longshot to be playing anywhere in the NFL when he left Southern Mississippi, even though he rushed for 1,098 yards and 14 touchdowns, and caught 30 passes for 284 yards and two scores to go along with a kickoff return TD as a senior.
In his rookie season, a tip from quarterback Derek Carr helped Richard make the team.
“Going into the last preseason game my rookie year, DC basically told me, ‘You’re going to make the team, they just want to see you block,’” Richard recalled. “I was like, ‘OK, they want to see me block.’
“ … It’s hard to block in this league, and the first thing is knowing who you’ve got and where they’re coming from. With my four years of being here and in those meetings, I’m to the point now where I come up (to the line), I already know who (center) Rodney (Hudson) is going to point to when they move to this (look), who Rodney is going to switch to.”
Those meetings are held on Thursdays in the past were attended by quarterbacks and centers, but not anymore.
Richard changed that.
“Then he started showing up,” Carr said. “And now all the running backs show up. … Teams find out quickly on film, ‘This guy doesn’t want to block,’ and now they’re going to blitz every time he’s in the game and it causes problems in the pocket.
“Not only does (Richard) know who to block, he can make the calls just like (Hudson) and I can. You don’t find very many running backs who can do that.”
Of course, that’s not all Richard can do, which is why he is one of the most valuable third-down backs in the league, a dangerous receiver out of the backfield who also can carry the ball and as already mentioned, block for Carr and running back Josh Jacobs.
In four seasons with the Raiders, the 26-year-old Richard has 233 carries for 1,150 yards, a 5.0-yard average, and three touchdowns, while catching 160 passes for 1,380 yards, an 8.6 average, and three touchdowns.
Not only that, but he has also returned 68 punts for 485 yards, a 7.1 average, and 34 kickoffs for 680 yards, a 20-yard average with long of 96, and made six solo tackles on special teams.
“I love when people say that we only throw check-downs to Jalen Richard, but those are called plays for Jalen Richard, you know?” Carr said. “These are plays where we are only running routes to get him the ball. Our yards per attempt and completion are super high and they are only going to get higher and grow higher as we’re adding speed and versatility on our offense. It’s only gonna get better.”
Richard and the rest of the Raiders can’t wait to make it happen in Allegiant Stadium.
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