Sheldon Richardson has a new position on Jets' defense -- MPB7

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Ask Sheldon Richardson what position he plays for the New York Jets, and this is what he'll tell you:


Sounds very James Bond-ish, right?

"It's multi-purpose box seven," Richardson said. "Any position you need me to play in the box seven, I can play."

Richardson usually plays defensive end or tackle, but he has been playing outside linebacker in recent weeks. In fact, he was in the starting lineup last week as an outside 'backer in the 3-4 base defense. You don't often see a 294-pound linebacker, but Richardson doesn't look out of place because of his freakish athleticism.

The idea gained momentum five weeks ago, when Quinton Coples was waived. The Jets had started playing more 4-3 fronts, getting Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams on the field at the same time, but Todd Bowles is an old 3-4 coach and he didn't want to junk the scheme entirely. Because rookie Lorenzo Mauldin isn't ready for an every-down role, Bowles decided to give Richardson a shot.

Richardson played 18 snaps at linebacker last week against the Patriots, bringing his total to 125 out of 533 defensive snaps, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

"We try to scheme and do certain things if we see certain things on the other side of the ball that we can take advantage of," Bowles said.

Richardson said he laughed upon learning of the linebacker idea, but he accepted the challenge. It wasn't easy at first because he continued to read plays as a 3-technique tackle, his natural position, not as a linebacker. The coaches backed him off, but he's back on the accelerated program.

"There's nothing to it," he said. "It's not an obstacle. Guys put limits on themselves. I put none on myself. Just give me my reps, and I should be fine by game day."

Richardson doesn't lack confidence. He believes he can play every position on defense except cornerback. Coming out of high school, he was the highest-rated tight end in the country. As a rookie, in 2013, he got a handful of plays as a goal-line running back, scoring two touchdowns. He's always one of the best athletes on the field, no matter what field he's on.

This is one of those situations where the player has to put aside his ego, and Richardson is doing that. Obviously, he'd rather be playing his natural position, but he understands the deal. Bowles wants to get the best 11 players on the field, and Richardson is most definitely among the best 11.

"I don't make as many plays," he said. "It's the dirty job on the defense. It's not flashy, but you get your chance to shine. I got one (sack against New England). We're winning. It is what it is.

"I could've complained about more 3-technique reps, but it's not necessary," Richardson continued. "It's not necessary at all. The team is flourishing right now and I'm a team guy. Anything they ask me to do, I do. It's working out right now."

Richardson said he gets teased by the defensive linemen. They say he's no longer one of them, and that he belongs to the linebacking corps. To counter that, he created the MPB7 label. It's unique, that's for sure.

"Whatever the team needs me to do, I'll do," he said. "If anything, it builds my résumé."