4 biggest remaining questions ahead of Commanders 2023 season opener

There are still some riddles for the Commanders to solve.

Terry McLaurin
Terry McLaurin / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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Who will the Commanders use to return punts?

Kazmeir Allen fumbled one punt and opted to 'fair catch' another on the five-yard line in the final preseason game. Thus, it came as no surprise that the Washington Commanders opted to keep Dax Milne on the final roster as a backup receiver and primary punter returner.

This is not a very exciting prospect for most fans. But the Commanders are not really looking for excitement at this position. They are looking for reliability.

The Commanders have other options as kickoff returners – Antonio Gibson and Danny Johnson have both done it in the past. But they have no one else to return punts at this point.

When dynamic returners like Shi Smith and Isaiah McKenzie were cut this week, it had some of us wondering if the Commanders might swoop in. Alas, nothing materialized.

McKenzie has already re-signed with the Indianapolis Colts. So far, Washington has not expressed an interest in Smith - a former sixth-round pick out of South Carolina - or any other returner.

It looks like it will be Milne’s job to lose. I suspect the Commanders view him as a sure-handed option who could perhaps get a little better with experience.

Last season was the first time Milne had returned a lot of punts. He did not as a rookie – and he returned a total of 12 when he was at BYU. There is a lot more to returning punts than meets the eye, so a period of adjustment was expected.

There is knowing when to move forward to make a fair catch before the ball hits the ground and rolls. There is knowing when to let a punt go. There is learning to make the first man miss and then getting upfield for as many yards as possible - even if it’s only a couple.

Milne will never be a home run threat as a punt returner. But if he can improve a little bit, that's all the Commanders probably need.

If he doesn’t, or if – horrors – he takes step backwards the way Steven Sims Jr. did a few years back, then look for the Commanders to begin holding auditions for their next punt returner.