“The underside line is, no matter what it appears like, it’s important to catch [the ball] and safe it,” Kaczor stated Friday. “However the monitoring of the soccer provides the remainder of your talent set an opportunity to kick in.”
At coaching camp, the hunt for the Commanders’ subsequent returner is on. Final 12 months, DeAndre Carter saved Washington among the many league’s greatest in kickoff returns. The group ranked third within the NFL with 25.1 yards per kick return, however Carter was so-so on punt returns, averaging 8.4 yards. Now, after Carter’s departure in free company, Kaczor believes the perfect starter could be a twin returner for punts and kickoffs, a job Washington hasn’t had locked down since Andre Roberts in 2014.
“It takes some stress off you looking for one other man,” Coach Ron Rivera stated. “It helps you additionally once you’ve bought to have your 48-guy record for recreation day.”
Although Kaczor echoed that very same pragmatism, he additionally desires to establish a number of gamers with the required instruments to return kicks and punts. Up to now, he has examined newly-signed veteran Alex Erickson, second-year receiver Dax Milne, undrafted rookies McGowan and Jequez Ezzard, follow squad receiver Marken Michel and even Jahan Dotson, the receiver who was the Commanders’ first-round decide in April’s draft.
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Among the many group auditioning for a shot, Erickson, a return specialist and wideout who signed with Washington this offseason, has probably the most expertise on the professional degree.
As an undrafted rookie with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016, Erickson led the NFL in kick return yards (810) and spent three years because the Bengals’ twin returner. In 2019, he transitioned primarily to punt duties, and he has returned 20-plus punts in each season of his profession.
The 29-year-old stated he sees the worth of getting an skilled returner amongst a gaggle of younger candidates vying for the job.
“The blokes are younger, they’re hungry, they wish to know the place, and so I’m simply an open ebook,” he added. “I relied loads on older guys once I was a rookie and the youthful man.”
Dotson is the biggest-name rookie within the combine for the job. He was an electrical punt returner throughout his time at Penn State, and Kaczor lauded his potential to be a terrific punt returner and first-team wideout, however Rivera has erred on the aspect of warning when discussing Dotson’s possibilities of taking part in on particular groups.
“Jahan has a chance to be an integral a part of what we do already [offensively],” Rivera stated Friday. “He’s proven some flashes … so we’ve bought to be very, very, very diligent, very sensible about [how we use him] as we undergo this course of.”
Milne is an alternative choice, and Rivera has complimented his twin returner potential up to now. In Ashburn, Milne has taken receiver reps with the primary and second groups, and competing at returner may very well be one other strategy to safe a everlasting roster spot.
“I really feel actually snug going again there and catching punts and kick returns,” stated Milne, who returned simply 12 punts and two kicks for a complete of 92 yards in three years at Brigham Younger College. “Regardless of the group wants me to do, I’ll do it.”
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Ezzard additionally presents a compelling case for return duties. The receiver earned first-team honors within the Western Athletic Convention final 12 months as each a receiver and returner.
“It’s simply my athleticism, having the ability to make a play at any time when I can,” Ezzard stated of his expertise. “However I’m nonetheless out right here attempting to adapt to every little thing and make one of the best of my alternatives after they come.”
McGowan and Michel are longer pictures on the function. McGowan went undrafted after stints at Northwestern and Georgia Tech, and Michel — brother of Dolphins working again Sony Michel — has bounced round NFL follow squads and Canadian soccer since 2016.
However Kaczor is watching these down-roster gamers who may have the ability to use sturdy returner expertise to safe a spot on the group. The following beginning returner is someplace at coaching camp, and so are two or three guys who would do the job at a second’s discover.
“At any time when the personnel division comes up and we begin speaking about making choices, [the question becomes] how a lot of an opportunity does this man should make the group on offense?” Kaczor stated. “Can he return? … Or, this man doesn’t have nearly as good of an opportunity to make it on [offense] or [defense], is he ok as a returner to warrant a roster spot? That’s the key sauce behind all of it.”