Just in case Vikings fans were wondering if Everson Griffen was worth the five-year, $42.5 million he received before free agency opened in March, one of the left tackles going against him had high praise.
Antonio Richardson, the second-string left tackle behind starter Matt Kalil, faced Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, and said Griffen is the better player.
Clowney, drafted by the Houston Texans and listed as a linebacker, is the best player Richardson faced in college, the offensive tackle said, but Griffen has the edge right now.
“I feel like I fared against (Clowney) pretty well, but to be real with you I feel consistently I’ve seen better pass rushers since I’ve been here than I did when I was (going against) him,” Richardson said. “I think that a guy like Everson, who is going into Year 5, his name is relevant here in the NFL. I feel like at this point, I feel like him and a few other of our guys are probably more fine-tuned pass rushers right now than Clowney would be. I think I’ve gotten good work with those guys.”
Richardson, who played his college football at Tennessee, faced Clowney in 2012 when the college pass-rushing terror was increasingly hearing that he was the best college defender in the country.
According to NFL Draft Report, Richardson “firmly held his ground” against Clowney in that 2012 game, a 38-35 for Clowney’s South Carolina Gamecocks. Richardson was credited with eight knockdown blocks and two touchdown-resulting blocks against the South Carolina terror. Clowney finished with four tackles and one sack.
Now Richardson, who at 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds is nicknamed “Tiny,” is tasked with getting better while facing Griffen and third-round draft pick Scott Crichton on a daily basis at Vikings training camp.
“You’ve got to adapt to (the quickness) pretty fast because if you don’t you’ll get embarrassed really often,” Richardson said. “You get forced to adapt when you go against guys like Everson and Scott and guys like that who are really good speed rushers.
“I feel like I’m progressing along fairly well. I feel like there’s every now then where I kind of regress every now and then where I want to do my own thing. I’m getting stressed every day on how to do it right and I’m just going to continue to get better.”
Richardson’s progress shows in the Vikings’ first depth chart of the preseason. He is listed as the backup to 2012 first-round draft pick Matt Kalil at left tackle. Richardson is the only 2014 undrafted rookie in the top two of any position on the depth chart and one of only three rookies overall on offense – joining first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater (No. 2 at quarterback) and fifth-round pick David Yankey (No. 2 at left guard).
Richardson was one of four players head coach Mike Zimmer listed as flying under the radar so far in camp, and one of only two rookies, joining seventh-round cornerback Jabari Price.
So far, Richardson has been used exclusively at left tackle but said he can play both left and right tackle.
“I think the hardest challenge of (left tackle) is always knowing what are your surroundings and just knowing everything about that position, as well,” he said. “Knowing what you’re doing, but also worry about if the Will (weakside linebacker) walks on the line, are we fanning it and (making other adjustments). Also, worrying about the speed of the guys like Everson, who can go from speed to power and the total opposite of that, too, who also has a mean spin move as well. I think that over time you adapt to it.”
If that continues, Richardson should be the odds-on favorite among the undrafted rookies to make the 53-man roster.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Richardson says Griffen better than Clowney
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