Pittsburgh Steelers running back Daryl Richardson is currently listed as the fourth running back on the roster just slightly behind Fitzgerald Toussaint, who had some solid performances backing up an injured DeAngelo Williams last season.
Richardson and Toussiant are currently battling it out to see which athlete deserves a spot on the 53-man roster and the right to backup Williams throughout Le'Veon Bell's 3-game suspension to start the 2016 season.
We are going to take a look at Richardson's solid performance against the Eagles and just why everyone is talking about him.
One of Daryl Richardon's strengths is his ability to hit the hole extremely hard. On 1st down and 10 late in the second quarter, Richardson ran the ball right side and gained 7 yards.
On this play you see some tremendous blocking, and a gigantic hole, in front of Richardson, something Toussaint hasn't always had considering he is usually playing against the opposition's starting defense. Nonetheless, this play is just as much about Cody Wallace as it is Richardson. Yes, I said Cody Wallace, the center.
Last year when Wallace filled in for Maurkice Pouncey due to injury, people talked about Wallace's lack of athleticism being a knock on the interior lineman. Just watch Wallace pull from the center position to lead the way to the second level for Richardson. Wallace and David DeCastro absolutely annihilate the Eagles' defenders and create a gaping hole in front of Richardson. It is true, a perfectly blocked play can be a beautiful thing to watch.
Kudos to Richardson for having the vision, speed and explosion to get through the second level of defense and have a big gain.
What has made quarterback Ben Roethlisberger such a threat in the passing game is his running backs and their ability to run routes like a receiver. Le'Veon Bell is one of the best in the business when running routes out of the backfield, but not many running backs have that kind of ability.
Against the Eagles on Thursday night, quarterback Landry Jones faced a 3rd and 5 in his own territory. Notice the formation. The Steelers deploy a shotgun formation, empty set, with no one back to help Jones if pressure gets through the line. This formation features the running back bunched off the left tackle to create a mismatch with a linebacker. This is used frequently with Le'Veon Bell, as there isn't a linebacker in the game who can cover him, except for Ryan Shazier.
This was a huge step of development for Richardsion in my eyes. If you want to play running back in the Steelers' offense you can't be one dimensional. Richardson does a good job freezing the linebacker with a simple head fake, and making himself big for Jones to hit for an pretty easy pitch and catch. First down Steelers.
The difference between Richardson and Bell? Bell would have thrown a much harder inside fake to get the linebacker to bite on the inside move, which would have turned this 6-yard gain into a 16-yard gain due to the separation it would have created.
On 3rd down and 1-yard to go for a new set of downs, you have to show you can get the tough yards. On the cusp of the red-zone, Richardson is contacted first behind the line of scrimmage. One facet of Le'Veon Bell's game which is so impressive is his ability to always fall forward. Rarely does he get driven backwards. Richardson is able to do this, even when the blocking isn't completely clean.
Ryan Harris, No. 68, gets stood up at the line of scrimmage and driven back into the preferred hole for Richardson. Luckily the former seventh-round draft pick showed extreme vision, elusiveness and acceleration to still gain a first down.
This was a difficult yard to gain, and Richardson was able to scratch and claw his way to move the chains. This is certainly worth noting when critiquing Richardson's overall game.
When looking at a running back who is well rounded, you need him to be able to break off a big run when given the space, catch the ball out of the backfield and to get the tough yards when necessary. Although this is a small sample size, and in the meaningless preseason, Richardson did more than show he is capable in all three facets in the job description.
Last week against the Detroit Lions, he ran the ball 11 times and gained 44 yards. Head coach Mike Tomlin was extremely impressed with his performance, and he backed that up with another fine showing against Philadelphia.
The battle between Fitzgerald Toussaint and Daryl Richardson wages on. May the best running back win.