The New England Patriots ranked 25th in kickoff return yards last season, an area the team must improve on in 2013. The Patriots averaged just 21.2 yards per return as the returners could rarely put its potent offense in good field position to start drives. The Patriots could opt to pick a return man in one of the later rounds of the draft but the team may be better suited to look at an internal option in Olympic medalist Jeff Demps.
Demps was signed late in the preseason last year and played in two exhibition games for the Patriots. The Patriots, though, placed Demps on Injured Reserve, despite him being injury free. The Patriots believed Demps would benefit by spending a full year in their program. Demps was essentially “red shirted” as he got the chance to learn the system and soak in life in the NFL.
In his final year at the University of Florida, Demps saw an increased role in the kickoff return game. He was able to return 10 kickoffs for 250 yards, including a touchdown kickoff run “to the house”. Overall, Demps returned 21 kickoffs in his four seasons at Florida, attaining 604 yards and average of 28.8 yards per kickoff. Demps was of course the primary back for the Florida Gators, rushing for nearly 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns. The Patriots should consider going into training camp with Demps as the starting kickoff returner. Demps will have to earn the job but chances are that the Olympian absorbed a lot on the sidelines last year as he learned the Patriots system and should be ready to seize the opportunity. Demps is a versatile player that deserves the chance to display his electrifying speed for the Patriots in the backfield and in kickoff returns in 2013.