When the Jaguars drafted Will Richardson out of NC State in 2017, they raved about his versatility. Many saw Richardson as the Jaguars' right guard or right tackle of the future. He'd only ever played right tackle in college, but the Jaguars' top brass was high on the red-shirt sophomore; general manager Dave Caldwell said Richardson graded higher than the spot he was taken.
Listening to the front office's rave reviews, Richardson sure sounded like a "unicorn."
In his rookie season, though, he proved to be a unicorn for another reason: was he just a figment of our imagination?
First came a shoulder injury in the preseason. Richardson would miss the first six games of the 2018 season.
Then came a knee injury. Richardson's 2018 season was done. He was placed on season-ending injured-reserve, never having seen the game field.
In speaking with the Jaguars' front office, optimism remained high about the former North Carolina State stand-out's ceiling throughout 2018 and into the off-season. But the team also drafted Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor with their second-round pick in 2019 and signed former first-rounder Cedric Ogbuehi. If Richardson was to fulfill his destiny and become the Jaguars' right tackle, he'd have some competition.
But Will Richardson is a unicorn.
He started taking snaps at right guard -- even starting over veteran A.J. Cann in the Jaguars' preseason game with Miami, the lone, preseason game for the bulk of Jacksonville's starters.
And then came the regular season opener.
Will Richardson started at left tackle.
Will Richardson had only ever played one snap at left tackle in college: a victory formation kneel-down.
And in his debut at left tackle (not to mention, his professional debut), all Richardson did was hold heralded defensive end Frank Clark to a single tackle and one pass break-up. After accruing a few penalties in the preseason, Richardson didn't draw a single one against the Chiefs.
Jaguars' starting left tackle Cam Robinson's status remains in question with a hyper-extended right knee. Doug Marrone says he's "gotten used to [playing] whoever’s available."
"And if I have to play Will, I have no problem with the way he played the other day," the Jaguars' head coach said.
If Richardson's number is called, he'll be ready -- thanks in large part to mentorship from Robinson.
"Every time I left the field, Cam was saying, 'hey. Keep doing what you're doing, Will. He can't stop you,'" Richardson smiled on Monday following the Jaguars' season opener. "It's good to come off the field and get feedback. Just to [then] figure out, 'okay. What can I do on this play to make it a lot easier?'"
If that sounds like someone who wants to grow -- and loves to watch tape -- it's because it is. Richardson was very specific in describing his match-up with Clark.
"He's absolutely amazing at finding out his opponents' weaknesses and not just winning on every play: winning on his opponents' [weaknesses and mistakes]," Richardson explained. "So my biggest thing was to go out there and -- technically wise -- not have many mistakes for him to make a play off of."
You may not have heard Richardson's name called a lot Sunday. That's because there weren't many -- if any -- mistakes.
It was a pretty "magical" debut for the Jaguars' unicorn.