weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Special teams work gives Raiders’ Jalen Richard staying power

Derek Carr, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson.

That’s the full list of players who have been with the Raiders longer than versatile running back Jalen Richard, who signed a two-year contract extension in February to remain with the team he first signed with as an undrafted free agent in 2016.

He made an immediate impact with a 75-yard touchdown run on his first career carry, becoming just the fourth player in NFL history to score on a 75-yards-or-more run in his NFL debut.

Richard finished that year averaging 5.9 yards per carry, tops in the league for players with at least 80 attempts.

In four seasons with the Raiders, Richard has made two starts, logging 233 rushing attempts for 1,170 yards and three touchdowns to go with 160 receptions for 1,380 yards and three scores. He had a career-high 68 catches in 2018.

The true secret to his staying power, however, has been his ability to contribute in several areas. He has been a third-down specialist out of the backfield and has proved to be a capable pass blocker.

He has also shined on special teams. Richard has been a mainstay on punts and kickoffs, one of the best ways for depth running backs to keep their jobs.

While he hasn’t been used as much on returns as he was in his first two seasons, the coaching staff knows he’s always a reliable option. Last season, he returned six punts for 21 yards and nine kickoffs for 199 yards.

Richard was in on nine percent of special teams plays after being used 12 percent of the time in 2018.

The presence of since-departed Trevor Davis was a major reason, but those numbers were a far cry from his rookie season when he was a Pro Bowl alternate after averaging 23.6 yards on 17 kickoff returns and 9.0 yards on 34 punt returns while participating in 29 percent of the special teams plays.

His usage on offense also declined from 40 percent to 29 percent with the addition of star running back Josh Jacobs, leaving some concern about his role for 2020. Richard, however, is a big presence in the locker room and is a team leader.

The 26-year-old Louisiana native has been valuable in another way coaches love: durability. Richard has played in all 64 games since joining the Raiders in 2016 and figures to be in the mix once again.

He will have plenty of company in the return game.

Wide receivers Hunter Renfrow, Nelson Agholor and Rico Gafford, along with rookie running back Lynn Bowden have all spent time returning kicks and punts in training camp.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

Like and follow Vegas Nation
4th Raiders player added to AFC Pro Bowl roster

Sunday’s victory by the Chiefs propelled punter AJ Cole into Sunday’s Pro Bowl Games at Allegiant Stadium, joining Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs and Maxx Crosby.