Who's Returning Kickoffs?
- Brandon Tate went into sharp decline, and was pretty much useless on kick returns this preseason. When Detroit used the high and short strategy to force returns, Tate got us starting field position at places like the 12 and 15 yard line. So, I'm not worried about him being gone. Tiquan Underwood was a returner in Jacksonsville who posted a decent average, but we cut him too. Darius Butler returned kicks, not very well this preseason though, and he's also gone. So who's going to prevent us from having lots of starts inside our 20 this year?
Edleman had a nice return. I like him as a punt returner, but he never struck me as a kickoff returner. Still, I remember one nice return to get us mercifully outside the 20, and maybe his punt return skills translate nicely against some of the new kickoff tactics we'll see emerge. We saw it in Detroit. It wasn't much fun watching the Patriots start from the 12 and the 15 yard line. Shane Vereen returned kicks in college. I couldn't find out if Antwaun Molden has ANY experience returning kicks at any level, but the guy has great speed and surprising strength. Slater is a hard worker and is great at kick coverage. His returns haven't impressed me. Maybe the NFL is trying to eliminate returns, but the reality is they haven't, and there's a whole other approach teams can take besides kicking touchbacks. Danny Woodhead with his great speed, quickness, and elusiveness seems like he could be a dangerous return man, BUT one of the knocks on him coming out of college besides his size was a "lack of return skills." Near as I can tell though, he just hasn't had experience at returning kicks. Have coaches had him work on returning kicks at any point? I don't know. In college, he was Chadron State's feature back. I can't find any stats on him ever returning kicks there. Maybe, they're just not coming up on Google searches for me for some reason.
With Tarpinian, Edds, Slater, and Molden among others, it seems like Belichick is building what could be a good coverage team once it has time to jell and come together. Who's going to be returning kicks for us though? I sure don't want to see repeats of the Detroit special teams debacle all through the season.