By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
One of Bill Belichick's more maligned draft picks in recent memory is returning for a second stint with the Patriots. Safety Jordan Richards is coming back to town, according to Field Yates, after spending one year with the Falcons.
The Patriots traded Richards to Atlanta for a 2020 seventh-round pick before the start of the 2018 regular season. Richards was then cut by the Falcons during final roster cutdowns before the start of 2019. The safety spent his first three years in New England after the Pats selected him with the 64th overall pick in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, playing 41 games (seven starts).
Unfortunately, Richards earned something of a poor reputation during his first stint with the Patriots when he couldn't live up to his second-round status. He seldom contributed beyond special teams and frequently struggled on defense, most glaringly in Super Bowl LII. The benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler in that game caused a domino effect that forced Richards onto the field on defense, and he most notably allowed a 55-yard catch-and-run by Eagles running back Corey Clement that set up the famous "Philly Special" touchdown.
Fortunately, the Patriots' excellent depth in the secondary means Richards won't have to see the field on defense. It's likely he is coming back to contribute in a pinch on the kick and punt coverage units. Core special teamer Nate Ebner missed Week 3 against the Jets with a groin injury, but returned to play 25 snaps against the Bills. Still, Ebner remained on the injury report last week and the Patriots may just want to protect themselves in the event of another missed game.
The important thing to know, here, is that Richards will not be covering running backs on wheel routes. It would take a rash of bad luck and serious injuries for that to happen with the secondary as currently constituted.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].