Patriots Notes: Jordan Richards’ Position Change One Of Week 1’s Biggest Surprises

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets as the New England Patriots lick their wounds following Thursday night’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

— Many predicted Patriots safety Jordan Richards would not make it through roster cuts this year. But not only did Richards make the team, he also played a whopping 42 snaps against the Chiefs — as a linebacker.

The Patriots hinted at a potential position change for Richards, who barely got on the field as a safety last season, during their third preseason game, but it was not something anyone expected to see in a meaningful contest.

The result was a mixed bag. Playing both on the edge and off the line, Richards forced a tackle on his first snap, drew a holding penalty and finished with three tackles. But he also appeared indecisive — understandable for a player adjusting to a new position — and was caught out of position on multiple occasions in New England’s 42-27 loss.

Richards was a step slow covering running back Kareem Hunt on a 3-yard touchdown pass — the first of three scores for the Chiefs rookie.

The knock on Richards throughout his NFL career has been that he’s a tweener: not fast or athletic enough to play safety at a high level but too small to play linebacker. Plus, the Patriots already have three starting-caliber safeties in Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon, relegating the 2015 second-round draft pick to special teams duty.

Richards, who played just 18 defensive snaps in 2016, said the position change was his best bet to earn playing time.

“Obviously, it’s different from the past two years,” Richards said Friday. “But I just want to try to find a role in the defense.”

He added: “It’s just a learning process. You’re always learning, and I want to play good football all the time. Whether I’m playing close to the line of scrimmage or back deep, I always want the end result of the performance to be good. So it’s always working toward that.”

In a conference call Friday, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia offered little insight into why the Patriots felt comfortable moving Richards closer to the line — in fact, Patricia wouldn’t even acknowledge he was playing a different position — but head coach Bill Belichick shared a bit more, saying the Patriots wanted to keep more defensive backs on the field to combat the Chiefs’ speed.

“We did what we thought was best for the game,” Belichick said. “Obviously, things didn’t work out good. They gave us a lot of receivers on the field, different combinations of them, so we played more defensive backs or those type of players. That’s part of the matchup. But we didn’t do nearly as good a job of it as we need to do. We’ve just got to do a better job. It’s no one guy, it’s no one play, it’s no one thing.”

— Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who started alongside Richards and played every defensive snap against Kansas City, on Friday signed a two-year contract extension that will keep him in New England through the 2019 season.

“Obviously, it’s always good to get in a situation where a team wants you and they believe in you,” Van Noy said. “I’m just honored that Bill Belichick and (director of player personnel Nick Caserio) and Mr. (Robert) Kraft have full belief in me. It’s an honor. I’m really, really blessed.”

Van Noy is in his first full season with the Patriots after being traded from the Detroit Lions last October. With Dont’a Hightower shifting to the edge for Thursday’s game, Van Noy wore the green dot as the defense’s primary communicator.

“Just the atmosphere of the team, the coaches, I just fit pretty well with it,” he said. “I’m happy to be a Patriot.”

Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images

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