August 2, 2008

Return Game In Need Of An Upgrade

When the Washington Redskins brought in Antwaan Randle El in 2006 there were high hopes for the punt return game. After all, Randle El was statistically one of the premiere return men in the game.

Despite the expectations, Randle El has been downright dismal returning kicks. Often times he would dance around in every direction but upfield, looking for an opening only to get wiped out by a wave of defenders after a five yard pickup.

The number attest to this as in 2006, Randle El returned 39 kicks for 342 yards and a TD for an average of 8.8 yards per return while in 2007 he returned 34 kicks for 209 yards and no TDs for a 6.1 yards per return average. Meanwhile he was being outplayed by players like Josh Cribbs, Leon Washington, Devin Hester, Darren Sproles, Nate Burleson, and the list goes on. All these players outperformed Randle El last season by a long ways.

If the Skins intend to keep Randle El at that position, then they should seriously advise him to watch tape on a return man like Wes Welker. Welker wasn't flashy and didn't score, but he provided the Patriots with some decent field position by simply putting his head down and getting as many yards as he could. He ended up with a 10 yard return average.

Of course making some moves to break open a return is a good thing, but Randle El tried to break open every return last year. He needs to learn to take what is given to him and put a stop to the constant east/west movement. It will pay off.

If this return game could improve, the offense would start with better field position. Welker gave the Patriots a shorter field to work with by his north/south return style and Randle El could do the same for the Skins this year. If he finds it impossible to alter his play there are other options.

James Thrash has experience in the return game as does Santana Moss while I would be interested in seeing JT Tryon try his ability especially if he is playing at the #5 corner slot.

In all honesty, I don't care how it's resolved, but something needs to be done about the return game whether it be an improved Randle El or a new player. Because 6.1 yards a return isn't going to get the job done.

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