Richardson a grand addition to Jets backfield

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Thomas Jones is 50 yards away from reaching the 1,000-yard barrier a fourth consecutive season.

This campaign, however, doesn't belong in the same category as the other three. He's running with more conviction.

With five games left, he already has matched his personal best of nine rushing touchdowns. His 4.4-yard average is his highest since he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. He also has two receiving touchdowns, double his career output heading into the season.

While the first inclination is to credit the Jets' offensive line, an often overlooked benefactor is fullback Tony Richardson, whom the Jets signed as a free agent for just this purpose.

"He is the best fullback in the league hands down," Jones told reporters Friday. "He comes off the ball. He hits guys. He can catch. He can run. He can do it all."

Fifty more yards for Jones would mean Richardson has paved the way for seven 1,000-yard seasons for five different running backs. He previously blocked for Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson.

Richardson has only four touches this year (three carries and one reception), but he has touched several defenders in unkind ways.

"What I really like about Tony, prior to him getting here, was his ability to always find his man," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "It may not have the same thump as it once did, but he is very effective at finding the person he is supposed to block, getting him taken care of and giving the back a chance."

Added Jones: "It makes a humungous difference when you have a fullback like Tony Richardson in front of you."