This week undrafted rookie running back Jalen Richard returned to practice after missing the team’s first two preseason games. Richard lit up training camp, showing an impressive set of skills and exceptional balance, especially for a player who wasn’t even a priority free agent signing.
Richard was a tryout. He attended rookie minicamp on in invite and made the roster. Since then he only continued to impress. That was until he went out with a knee injury two days prior to the team’s preseason opener.
“Yeah. It was too bad that he had a little knee injury the last couple of weeks,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Wednesday. “There for a while he was doing something spectacular each and every day in practice. It’s good to have him back out there. Yesterday it really reminded us of what we’ve missed the last two weeks of practice with him not being there.”
What Musgrave said of Richard is consistent with what we saw from him in training camp. He looked every bit the running back fifth round rookie DeAndre Washington is. That includes having fantastic hands as a receiver out of the backfield. He has drawn raves from myself and others as well as his coaches, much like the one he got from Musgrave.
“It feels real good,” said Richard this week. “You definitely come here as an undrafted guy, really just pushing every day to make plays, just to be seen. That’s the whole thing; be seen, be seen, let them know every day that you can play on this level. So, it feels good to be back out there.
“During that time, from what I was hearing from coaches and players just kept giving me confidence every day to go out there and continue to play and just continue building my confidence up. And from there it’s just football all over again. You start playing football, you start having fun, and that’s what I was doing up until the point where I got dinged up a little bit, but now I’m back out here and I’m back having fun again, so I’m enjoying it.”
After practicing all week, Jack Del Rio was confident enough in what he saw to say that he expects Richard to play in the team’s third preseason game this Saturday against the Titans.
“He had a good week,” Del Rio said of Richard. “I anticipate him being able to play. We’ve been excited to see him and obviously he had the minor setback, but he’s done great, had a good week of practice, and we’re excited to get a look at him.”
The first two preseason games have seen Latavius Murray take the first team snaps almost exclusively. That looks to change this week as Del Rio said he would like to get a look at what the two rookies Richard and Washington can do with the first team offensive line blocking for them.
“I would like to get a few looks at both of those guys with our first group.,” Del Rio said. “So, we expect to get that done Saturday night.”
Richard’s return, along with the coaches seeing fit to get him in the game early, offers a big boost to his chances of making the final roster. Now he just has to go out there and prove it on the field in live game action.