Punt Returner – the Redskins Need a New One.

Antwaan Randle El is one slippery dude. He’s quick, and he’ll cut on a dime.  He probably doesn’t receive enough recognition in the press for his receiving prowess.  The past two years he’s caught over 50 passes while playing in a less-than-prolific offense.  Last year he averaged over 11 yards-per-catch (YPC). The previous season he averaged over 14 YPC.  Some might expect a # 2 receiver to get open more frequently, but it’s not like he’s been playing in the most prolific offense on the planet since coming to Washington.  When Randle El catches the ball, he moves the chains.  And, he rarely fumbles.  The numbers tell us that, and they don’t lie.  Unfortunately, there’s another set of numbers which tell an entirely different story.
In his first year with the Redskins (2006), Randle El averaged nearly 9 yards per punt return. Among all punt returners, including those who only touched the ball a handful of times, his average yards-per-return ranking was 31st.   If you discount those who returned punts less than once per game, it appears he would have tied for 15th.   Not too shabby.   But, the past two seasons his average yards-per-return ranking against all returners was 51st (2007) and 54th (2008).   He fumbled twice in each year, and failed to run a punt back for a touchdown in either year.   In 2008 he led the league with 21 fair-catches.
Obviously, there are multiple factors at play here such as blocking schemes, injuries, Danny Smith’s instructions in certain situations, etc.  But, the fact is, Antwaan Randle El’s production as a punt returner is declining.  If you compared his 2007 average yardage output to just those players who returned at least one punt-per-game that season, he’d be ranked 21st out of 28. In 2008, that ranking would be 22nd out of 28.
I like Antwaan Randle El, a lot.  He’s a productive receiver who moves the chains.  He enhances the offense’s trick-play options, and he’s a class act.   But, someone else needs to step up and take over the punt return job.  Until that happens, forcing the other team to punt won’t result in the kind of field position the Redskins’ offense needs in order to be competitive at an elite level. There are other Special Teams’ performance issues, to be sure.  Still, this one needs to be addressed before the season opener against the Giants.

-DW

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Topics: Randle El Punt Return Redskins

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  • todd clements

    Two words “Deangelo Hall.” Im a Va Tech Hokie and Redskin fan…De-Lo was the Hokies kick/punt returner and ran many back for touchdowns. De-Lo was the fastest guy on the Atlanta Falcons…faster even than his college/pro teamate Mike Vick. End of story.

  • http://riggosrag.com/ Redskins Guy

    You’re pretty much dead on about Randle El. I like him as a #2 receiver, though he’s overpaid. As a punt returner, however, he really does leave a lot to be desired. It seems like he’s always scrambling sideways or, even worse, backwards in an attempt to make a big play (that, as you noted from his lack of TD returns, never materializes) and he ends up worse off than if he had just run straight ahead. It drives me nuts.

  • Jared Adkins

    Don’t put De-Lo back there. If he got injured, our d-backs would be demolished. Put someone that isn’t key to the offense/defense: maybe Rock Cartwright, or one of our backup corners, maybe Tryon. Maybe even Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelley, if either fail to crack into a major role of the offense.

  • truthseeker

    great comments you guys; thought provoking.

  • Rob

    Why not Moss? Look, this team has a boatload of receivers, and while Moss may very well be our #1 guy, we should be past the point of being scared that he will get injured. He was money on the few he returned last year – the TD return in Detroit was phenomenal. Put Santana back there. I do like the prior comment that suggested that Hall get a shot too.

  • Jared Adkins

    you could have Moss return a few, but I feel that the concern of him getting injured isn’t from Santana himself, but rather from the coaches themselves who, rather aptly, feel that they wouldn’t have a great reciever if Moss got injured returning a punt. Same reasoning for Hall. Again, use a little-used player already on the depth chart: the skins did sign Dominique Dorsey to possibly return punts a couple of weeks ago, or maybe try out Byron Westbrook at PR, heck, maybe even try James Thrash at it. After all, he ha done it before…

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