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Paul Richardson still has juice if the Seahawks can help him stay healthy

Wild Card Round - Detroit Lions v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

SportsInjury Predictor.com is pretty sure Paul Richardson will miss time this season. Which, if true, makes him a strange signing for a team seeking to add depth at wide receiver. If Richardson is called upon to start, will he be healthy? And if he’s banged up but not so injured as to be placed on IR, how will the Seahawks handle missing both starter and backup?

I don’t know if SportsInjuryPredictor.com is reliable when it comes to predicting sports injuries, but if I may violate the sacred principles of journalism for a second, I didn’t need anyone to tell me Richardson may miss time this season. I’ve always cheered for the guy, I’ve always wanted him to do well, and he’s always endured injuries, and he’s always missed time when hurt.

Except in 2017 when Richardson started 13 games, played in 16, and played in 77% of the Seahawks’ total snaps on offense. That was the year he earned the kind of payday which should create generational wealth for his family. He only appeared on the injury report one time. He was questionable with a groin injury but still played against Arizona.

But it’s 2020, oh good lord is it 2020, and Richardson is two injury plagued seasons removed from his sole healthy season. Is there really any reason to hope this signing works out? Maybe.

Richardson was supposedly 100% following surgery to his AC joint in the 2019 offseason. He played in at least 80% of Washington’s snaps on offense in each of the Hogs’ first five games. Then he hurt his hamstring, missed time, and after probably returning too soon, suffered a recurrence and perhaps worsening of the injury. Hamstring injuries are very susceptible to recurrence, previous hamstring strains more than double the risk of a future hamstring strain, and hamstring strains are often the result of sprinting, which Richardson cannot really avoid.

Which means Richardson and the Seahawks face a challenge. While I acknowledge it’s a bit facile to copy and paste scientific literature and pass it off as if I am giving informed advice, I offer this from this article I linked to above:

Now would be a good time for strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis to shake his gnarly reputation, because a healthy Richardson can still contribute. All this medical crap is bumming me out. Let’s look at a couple plays from Week 3 of last season.

First we’ll look at one of two interceptions which occurred when Richardson was being targeted. I show this mostly to give a sense of what it was like playing for probably the worst-run franchise in professional sports.

Within seconds Richardson is a full body length ahead of Terry McLaurin.

Don’t get me wrong: McLaurin had his route disrupted and he’s facing considerably more attention from the defense. I’m not claiming Richardson is that much faster than McLaurin, but McLaurin ran a 4.35. My point is only that Richardson still has plenty of speed. Or did.

Richardson makes the slightest of cuts inside to freeze the deep safety before running a very rounded out-breaking route. His route running is reminiscent of DeSean Jackson, i.e. not something you’d necessarily teach in Pop Warner, but effective for those few capable of running so quickly through such extreme angles.

But then the throw.

I don’t know if that factors into Richardson’s poor DVOA, but it’s a taste of how bad quarterback play in Washington has been the last two seasons. From the Football Outsiders Almanac 2020:

I couldn’t find any reliable information about how well Keenum performed as a deep passer.

This next play includes Richardson’s longest reception of the season.

Despite a head start of a yard, five yards into their respective routes Richardson and McLaurin are roughly apace. McLaurin’s probably slow-playing his route a bit, but it’s further evidence that a year ago Richardson was still the burner we once knew.

Keenum scrambles. Richardson improvises a little looping out an’ up.

Amazon’s Next Gen stats indicate that Richardson left some yards on the field in week 3, but I wonder how well that accounts for Trey Quinn’s (#18) complete lack of blocking on this play. I’m not bashing Quinn. It’s a tough spot to stay aware, but Richardson’s modest run after catch probably has something to do with this.

If Richardson is still the player he was roughly a year ago, this is a good, modest-downside, modest-upside signing. The downside is evident. Seattle may have added unreliable depth. The upside is that Seattle has added a starting caliber receiver whose market was depressed for good reasons and bad reasons. Guy’s been injured, a lot, and even if the hamstring’s totally okay, it’s safe to bet the field when anticipating which injury may be next. That said, Richardson was already injury prone when he signed with Washington. That risk was baked into his contract. That he failed to excel receiving for some crummy quarterbacks working for a truly awful organization is a bad reason to undervalue him. That happens. It happened to Steve Smith. It happened to Randy Moss.