Yesterday I wrote here that Seahawks' coaches have been working with Russell Wilson on getting the ball out quickly on his pass plays to counter the offensive line's troubles protecting him.
The man to whom he is throwing many of those quicker passes is rookie Paul Richardson.
The 22-year old had just one catch and one target in the first five games this season. He was not even active for the fifth one; he watched the Oct. 12 loss to Dallas in team sweats from the sideline.
Yet offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, 21-year-veteran receivers coach Kippy Brown and coach Pete Carroll kept giving the rookie second-round draft choice from Colorado chances in practices and games to improve the nuances of his game: releases off the line; reading coverages and blitzes; breaking off routes and coming back to Wilson more aggressively when he scrambles.
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“Definitely, I could feel from my teammates and the coaches and the reps that I had to find another level to take it to,” Richardson says now. “I appreciate everyone pushing me, and everyone trusting me, and that’s what’s been showing.
“The progression for me working in to the point I am now was perfect.”
He has only 19 catches this season, but six of those have come on nine targets by Wilson in the last three games, all Seahawks wins.
You can measure how much trust Wilson has in a receiver by how often he throws to him on third down. Two games ago at Philadelphia, the Seahawks had a third and 15 with 28 seconds to go in the first half of a tie game. Wilson found Richardson crossing the field on an improvisational route for a 20-yard gain. That set up Steven Hauschka’s field goal, and the Seahawks led for good.
When Seattle had a third and 10 at the San Francisco 24 midway through the third quarter down 7-3 last weekend, it was Richardson whom Wilson targeted again. The rookie made the catch inside with defenders all around him for the first down. That set up Marshawn Lynch’s go-ahead score, and Seattle never trailed again then, either. Then Richardson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Wilson (pictured above) -- on a quick, two-step drop and single read by the quarterback -- to make it 17-7 early in the fourth quarter.
“Paul Richardson has really stepped up for us,” Wilson said. “He ran right to the right depth, he gets his depth and makes a great catch on that. Then, he had another great catch that got called back.
Wilson was amped the day early this spring when his general manager told him he intended to draft the zooming Richardson.
“I saw it the first day that John Schneider told me about Paul Richardson, in terms of the guy we were going to get. I do my research, so I was able to look up those guys,” Wilson said. “I really noticed just watching film on him, and I also noticed when he actually got here, his work ethic. How he was wanting to learn as much as he could. He’s on that constant quest for knowledge.
“Catching the football, he catches it so clean. Obviously, he’s as fast as it gets. So, having a guy that can be electric in that way is good for us.”
The rest of my profile of Richardson's emergence is here, and in today's News Tribune.
--The Arizona Republic notes how Kerwynn Williams has the Cardinals' ground game running at its season peak -- but asks, can Arizona run it against the Seahawks' No.-1 ranked rush defense Sunday night?
--Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu says there's no way his broken left thumb is going to keep him from playing Sunday night. He admitted to Phoenix-area reporters that he probably won't be intercepting any passes because of the cast he'll be wearing on his left hand.
--Seattle's KING5 television outlines some last-minute Christmas shopping costs if you have an urge to drop everything and get to Glendale for Sunday night's game.