Thursday, January 2, 2014

Richardson says 'future is bright' for Jets rookies


For better or worse, the New York Jets' rookies were going to get experience in 2013.

Second-rounder Geno Smith was thrust into the starting quarterback job thanks to Mark Sanchez's preseason injury, and first-rounder Dee Milliner inherited the No. 2 cornerback gig by default with Antonio Cromartie assuming No. 1 duties after Darrelle Revis' departure.

Meanwhile, third-rounder Brian Winters took over the starting left guard gig early in the season, and first-rounder Sheldon Richardson was immediately a regular cog in the middle of an elite defense front.

All in all, it was a decent year for the youngsters. The Jets led the league in rookie snaps with 3,810, and all of the aforementioned names finished the season strong. Let's not forget seventh-round fullback Tommy Bohanon, either.

"A fullback, a few linemen, a corner that's finally producing," Richardson told Newsday this week. ". . . As of late, everyone's having upside. So the future's bright for us."

While Smith got most of the attention given his position, Richardson stole the show. A Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, the Mizzou product was an absolute beast against the run and had his fair share of quarterback pressures despite the so-so 3.5 sack total. He also rushed for two touchdowns as a goal line fullback on offense.

Milliner had a very up-and-down (often down) season but finished strong with three interceptions in the last two games en route to being named Defensive Rookie of the Month by the league.

Smith also rode a roller-coaster all year but ended on a high note, scoring seven times -- four through the air and three on the ground -- in the last four games while throwing just two picks. He went turnover-less in the last two contests.

"Guys just have to have a productive offseason, don't get too lazy and have too much fun," Richardson said. "But we're most definitely going to be in a better position to win next year."

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