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Richardson eager to be impact player on D

Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson runs a drill

Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson runs a drill during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. (Feb. 25, 2013) Credit: AP

Some Jets fans may have been scratching their heads when the Jets selected Sheldon Richardson 13th overall Thursday night. But within minutes of today’s media press conference in Florham Park, it was clear Richardson is Rex Ryan's kind of guy.

The former Missouri defensive tackle – who was seated on the dais next to fellow first-rounder, Dee Milliner (the No. 9 pick) – talked glowingly of Ryan, the fierce competitor he watched two years ago on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

"He’s a great coach," Richardson said. "I know he wants his defense to come with it. He told them they finished eighth overall last year and he said he wasn’t happy with that. And you’ve got to respect a man like that.”

The St. Louis native beamed as he spoke of the opportunity that lies ahead: “It’s a fun experience for me. It’s kind of wild. A dream come true for me. I’m pretty sure, for him too," he said, pointing to Milliner. "He went before me so, his experience was a little bit better than mine.”

Richardson mostly played in a 4-3 defensive front at Missouri but he wasn’t surprised 3-4 teams like the Jets were interested in him. “I can be any kind of player they need me to be. Honestly," he said. "I don’t label myself as one type of defensive tackle. I’m versatile. That’s one of my main points and that’s why I think they pulled the trigger and made the phone call. They feel that they can find a place for me to play and be productive.”

The Jets, who released veteran run-stopper Sione Po’uha this offseason, currently have nose tackle Kenrick Ellis (a third-round pick in 2011), free-agent signee Antonio Garay and backup Damon Harrison. With the Richardson selection, the Jets have the personnel to use more 4-3 fronts this season -- but Ryan won't confirm that's the case.

“First off, we’re a very multiple-front team,” he said Friday night when asked if the Richardson pick means more 4-3 fronts are on the horizon. “So we can play an odd front, a 46 front (and) even front as well,” the coach said. “I think some of the versatility of some of the guys we have will allow us to do that.”

Regardless of his role, Richardson made it clear he wants a starting job.

“They didn't draft us to sit behind anybody,” he said. 

Asked for his thoughts on facing AFC East opponents like the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills, Richardson said his goal is simple: "Being productive, week in and week out...I'm just ready to play -- whoever we play." 

New York Sports