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Jets welcome addition of Richardson to defense

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The NFL trade deadline is not until November 3, but the New York Jets already made what could be the biggest move of the year Monday when defensive end Sheldon Richardson was added to the active roster.

OK, it wasn’t a trade. Don’t sweat the details, it is a move of great meaning to the Jets.

Richardson missed the first four games of the season after failing multiple marijuana tests. He practiced with the Jets on Monday, when the team returned from its bye week, and head coach Todd Bowles said he expects Richardson to play in Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium.

The often-sullen Richardson was borderline buoyant at the opportunity to return to the Jets.

“It was good, getting back with my guys – the camaraderie, I missed that,” Richardson said. “Watching football isn’t my thing.”

The Jets rank second in the NFL in total defense through five weeks, so adding Richardson may be a case of the rich getting richer. He should come in especially handy assisting a pass rush that has just seven sacks thus far. Richardson had 8.5 sacks last season.

“I’m coming,” Richardson said. “I’m coming to eat, too.”

For how long he eats is anyone’s guess. Richardson is expected to face more sanctions from the NFL following an incident in Missouri in July, when he was arrested for resisting arrest after a high-speed car chase in which he was allegedly clocked at 143 mph.

The next court hearing for Richardson is Nov. 9. The NFL is unlikely to hand out any punishment until the case is settled.

Nor will the Jets know anytime soon if Richardson – who agreed to undergo counseling after his troubled off-season – has changed his ways and is worthy of the type of commitment he’ll be seeking after next season, when his rookie deal expires.

“It’s an ongoing process,” head coach Todd Bowles said. “I don’t think you learn a lesson in a month or so. It’s an ongoing deal that will be answered later in life.”

REPORT CARD THROUGH FOUR GAMES

–PASSING OFFENSE: B plus. WR Brandon Marshall (30 catches for 400 yards) is prone to at least one head-scratching miscue per game, but he’s accounted for more than one-third of the Jets’ receptions and nearly 40 percent of their passing yardage and is on pace for the greatest season ever by a Jets receiver. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has provided the stability and maturity the Jets lacked under Geno Smith, but with seven touchdowns and six interceptions, there’s still a sense of impending danger every time he drops back. In order for Fitzpatrick to preside over a .500 season for the first time as a starter, he’ll need plenty of help from the running game as well as for WR Eric Decker and/or WR Devin Smith to emerge as a legitimate second weapon.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B plus. It’s pretty simple: When RB Chris Ivory (63 carries for 314 yards and three touchdowns) is healthy, the Jets have an elite rushing attack. When he’s not, they’re hard-pressed to put together a replacement-level unit. Ivory’s furious style will always put him at risk of getting hurt, but the Jets need to find some way to keep him healthy because they’re not going to support Fitzpatrick with a tandem of RB Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy.

–PASS DEFENSE: B. CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie may not quite be at the peaks they were during their first go-round with the Jets, but opposing teams still have no interest in even testing the duo. The Eagles and Dolphins were content to turn their best receivers, Jordan Matthews and Jarvis Landry, into non-factors by barely throwing the ball in Revis’ direction in the two weeks leading up to the bye. The Jets are still vulnerable to tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield, as evidenced by Eagles RB Ryan Mathews getting free on a wheel route for what proved to be the decisive touchdown on Sept. 27. But safeties Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist have solidified an area that was long ignored by ex-head coach Rex Ryan. The return of DE Sheldon Richardson should also shore up a pass rush which has recorded just seven sacks, half of which were produced by DE Muhammad Wilkerson.

–RUSH DEFENSE: A minus. New regime, same old stout rush defense. Other than a blip against the Eagles in which Mathews busted out for 108 yards, the Jets have been familiarly effective against the run. Opponents are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and the Dolphins barely even tried to establish a running game in the final contest before the bye. NT Damon Harrison, an impending free agent, is earning himself a big contract with someone.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C. The Jets might be unbeaten if not for a complete breakdown on the punt coverage team Sept, 27, when RB Darren Sproles broke five tackles on his way to an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in a 24-17 win. Alas, coverage remains a flaw for the Jets, who gave up a long punt return to Landry that led to a score prior to the bye. K Nick Folk has already missed two field goals. P Ryan Quigley has been solid the last two weeks after a rough start. WR Jeremy Kerley, now relegated almost exclusively to punt returns, is doing a passable job and averaging almost nine yards per return. The Jets still don’t have a kickoff returner, though recently signed WR Kenbrell Thompkins may get a chance to fill that role next week.

–COACHING: B plus. Head coach Todd Bowles has done a masterful job thus far changing the culture from the reckless Ryan era. Once again, the Jets are in the mode of their coach, but the slow-and-steady approach is the one that wins. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has thus far utilized his personnel better than any Ryan offensive coordinator. Defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, presumably with some help from Bowles, has schemed quite effectively in the first four weeks. The Jets laid an egg against the Eagles coming off a short week, but Bowles had them ready to bury the reeling Dolphins in London seven days later.


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