Paul Richardson believed that if he could ever get through all the injuries that have sidetracked his career, he could develop into a consistent option for the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s finally happening, and just in time with Richardson in a contract year.
“I’m pretty confident in myself out there and in the offense. My biggest focus every week is to stay healthy,” Richardson said. “So as long as I’m healthy, I feel like I give us a good chance on offense to make some plays or at least draw some attention, take the top off or whatever my duty calls me to do that week, I just maximize it.”
One of the big questions entering the season was who would become the complementary wide receiver opposite Doug Baldwin, especially after Jermaine Kearse was traded to the New York Jets before the start of the regular season.
Richardson is filling that role. He’s already set a career high with a team-high five touchdown receptions, including two TDs and 105 yards receiving in Seattle’s win over Houston two weeks ago. He’s four catches away from tying his career-best of 29 receptions in his rookie season in 2014.
Having those second and third options has become even more important as Seattle’s run game has scuffled through the first eight weeks and the team has relied more on quarterback Russell Wilson’s arm. Seattle is second in the NFL in passing yards per game and Wilson is on pace to attempt more than 600 passes this season for the first time in his career.
Baldwin will always be Wilson’s primary target. But Richardson’s improved consistency and ability to win deep throws downfield has been a boost for Seattle’s offense.
“It is really fun to see him so confident now,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He has just grown so much. He has been very level-headed about it as well in his work habits and everything. His mentality has been great, but you can see the confidence is really just coming out of him.”
Injuries have defined most of Richardson’s career to this point. It started at the end of his rookie season when Richardson suffered a torn ACL in a playoff game against Carolina. He missed the first half of the 2015 season still recovering and when he did return, he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury on his only catch of the year, a 40-yard reception down the sideline.
He returned healthy in 2016 but struggled to find a role in the offense until late in the season. He finished the regular season with 21 catches, but had seven receptions and a touchdown in Seattle’s two playoff games. The Seahawks had seen enough from Richardson to feel confident going into this season that his role could increase and he could essentially take the place of Kearse.
That’s largely what has happened. Richardson has at least two catches in every game. He leads the team in touchdowns. Richardson’s offseason work catching passes form Wilson in Los Angeles is paying off.
“What Paul Richardson has been able to do this year is a testament to his hard work, and is a testament to everything he’s been doing all offseason, honestly,” Wilson said. “He had an unbelievable offseason; he was getting tons of work down in L.A., we were getting together throwing a bunch and it’s really proving that he’s really back at a high level.”
Of course, the timing couldn’t be better for Richardson. His rookie contract is up after the season, and while Richardson understands that’s his reality, he’s doing his best not to let it be a distraction.
“My agent wants me to stay focused, just like my family wants me to stay focused. Don’t play with hypothetical because it can have an effect on my play and that’s the last thing I want affected,” Richardson said. “I know the more I do on the field the more it speaks for itself.”