With offensive linemen it’s hard to nail down the “stand out” game that catches the eye of a general manager or head scout. They could go weeks without allowing a sack or a pressure, they could open a hole in the run game, they could get a downfield block that makes the highlight reel — but the things that make front office decision makers put a guy higher on their board can be subtle and wading through dozens of games to find patterns (only to make an assumption) can be fruitless.
But when Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell was asked what games stood out for newly drafted offensive lineman Will Richardson, he could name two games off the top of his head:
Louisville and Clemson.
“I was at the Louisville game,” Caldwell said after the NFL Draft was over on Saturday. “He played well there, saw him live at that game. He’s played pretty consistently throughout the year. Clemson, played well ... he can bend his knees, he stays low, he gets really good movement and you’ll see it in the clips that they show on TV of him finishing blocks. This is a nasty guy, takes good angles to the second level.”
Now that we’ve narrowed the scope to just two games — against Louisville and Clemson — what were some of the things Richardson showed in those two games that might have set him apart in Caldwell’s head.
1. Pass protection on deep throws
In both of these games, NC State quarterback Ryan Finley was pressured just once and sacked just once. Richardson didn’t allow either of those, and in fact didn’t allow a single pressure or sack in eight ACC games last year.
Here he is at right tackle protecting Finley on the opening touchdown of the game against Louisville.
Finley needs almost four seconds of protection for the receivers to get separation 30 yards downfield and for the throw to be in the right place at the right time. Richardson is physically dominant against his opponent all game, with this play being a microcosm of what you can expect to see if you watch the whole thing.
And if you look at all four touchdown throws by Finley in these two games, half of them are 40 yards or more.
2. Physical red zone run blocking
In these two games combined, NC State ran 73 times for 306 yards and four touchdowns — a 4.2 yards per carry average.
But more than that, all four rushing touchdowns came in the red zone with three of them coming from within the 7 yard line. (The fourth was at the 11 yard line.)
You can’t tell me Tom Coughlin didn’t see Richardson’s run-blocking value in the red zone and start to salivate.
All in all, Richardson is an extremely physical, mobile lineman who should at worst be the Jaguars’ new swing tackle and at best break into the starting lineup as a right guard this season and right tackle the next.