We are a week into training camp and a week away from the Arizona Cardinals’ first preseason matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on August 13. This is the chance for NFL veterans, journeyman, inexperienced players, and rookies to impress their coaches to potentially make the final roster or practice squad.
Entering his third year in the NFL, wide receiver A.J. Richardson is hoping this is the season he secures a spot on the 53-man roster. He signed with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent out of Boise State in 2019 and has made their practice squad two years in a row.
Richardson was a three-star prospect coming out of high school but was redshirted during the 2014 college football season. In 2015 and 2016, he was far down the depth chart as he was stuck behind Boise State’s all-time leader in career receiving yards in Thomas Sperbeck and current NFL receiver Cedrick Wilson. It was not until both of them left when Richardson saw an uptick in involvement and production.
In his final collegiate season in 2018, Richardson set career highs across the board in receptions (54), receiving yards (825), and touchdowns (8). Boise State finished that season with a 10-3 record as they improved their scoring average from No. 36 (32.5 ppg) the year before to No. 20 (35.4) in college football.
Check out one of the best catches of Richardson’s college football career.
He had many more tough catches at Boise State. You can check out more of Richardson’s college highlights here.
The 26-year-old receiver caught five passes for 67 yards and a touchdown in the 2019 preseason game against the Denver Broncos. Richardson has a good combination of size (6’0’’ 215lbs) and speed (4.62 40). As Larry Fitzgerald and DeAndre Hopkins have already proven, you do not need to be the fastest receiver to be successful in the NFL.
COVID-19 made it difficult for any player trying to make the 53-man roster actually make the roster last season with a lack of an offseason and preseason. Fortunately the offseason and preseason have returned this year.
There is a reason why Richardson was kept on the practice squad last season over former Cardinals’ fourth-round pick Hakeem Butler. He knows the offensive playbook better than many of the receivers vying for a final roster spot which gives Richardson an edge to some extent.
Without a doubt, he has an uphill battle with only one or two receiver spots available in a crowded wide receiver room of 13 players right now. DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, and Rondale Moore are locks. Andy Isabella is trending that direction as KeeSean Johnson is doing the same. Andre Baccellia and JoJo Ward looked good during training camp so far.
He could very well land on the Cardinals’ practice squad for his third consecutive year or treat this preseason as an audition for other NFL teams. The best path for Richardson to take is having a career trajectory like Trent Sherfield as a special teams ace. The other option is to outperform every receiver starting from Andy Isabella and lower on the depth chart. If he can do either, Richardson is dark-horse candidate to make the 53-man roster.