With a new head coach, some intriguing free agents and a quarterback on the comeback trail, the 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 30 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.
Who will return kickoffs for the Redskins?
You know how the Cleveland Browns are in a cycle where they are hiring and firing head coaches, coordinators, and general managers let and right? It was kind of like that last year with the Redskins and kick returners, although it really wasn’t funny. Josh Morgan, Niles Paul, Chris Thompson, and Nick Williams all gave it a shot. It added up to a league-low average of 20.0 yards per kickoff return. Of course, that wasn’t all on the returners; there weren’t many gaping holes that the ball carriers missed. This year the team hopes to find one returner and create a path to good field position for him on a regular basis. Who will that be?
Tandler: Among those lining up for kickoffs during minicamp were Andre Roberts, Lache Seastrunk, Thompson, and Williams. This competition will be decided in preseason games. Without pads in OTAs and minicamp and even with pads in training camp teams can’t run live kickoffs. The returners can work on fielding the ball and picking up blocks but not until they are under live conditions can Jay Gruden and Ben Kotwica figure out who will be able to get the job done. I’ll be very interested in seeing what the speedy rookie Seastrunk can do but he has almost no experience returning kickoffs in competition (one return for 13 yards a Baylor). Roberts’ experience makes him the favorite for the job going in but he’s not a lock; he has a rather pedestrian career average of 22.4 yards per return.
El-Bashir: I suspect Roberts will get tapped for the job. It makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, as Tandler pointed out, he has more experience than the other candidates, having been one of the Cardinals’ primary returners as a rookie in 2010. (His 23.3 yards average that season wasn’t great—it would have ranked 16th in 2014—but he only got 14 attempts. I’d be curious to see what he could do over the course of an entire season.) Second, Roberts says he would “love” to do it. After getting pushed down the depth chart by the unexpected arrival of DeSean Jackson, he’s eager to contribute in other ways and make sure he’s earning his $4 million a year. He'll certainly do that by adding full time return duties to his No. 3 wide out status. All that said, I don’t think it’s a lock. Based on OTAs, Seastrunk, Thompson and a handful of others are also auditioning for the role. And for guys like them, adding return duties could mean the difference between making the cut and not.