Kick returns on special teams are one of the most critical aspects of the NFL. A good return game establishes a shorter field for the offense in an effort to score points. In some cases, a good kick returner can change the momentum of any game. Baltimore Ravens’ wide receiver Jacoby Jones averaged 30 yards per kick return, and scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns in 2012. Jones also recorded an 108 yard kickoff return for a touchdown that helped the Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII 34-31.
The Washington Redskins boast no such prowess in their return game. Tight end Niles Paul has been getting the lion’s share of the kick return duties in 2012.. He averaged 21 yards per kick return, which doesn’t inspire much fear in the hearts of opposing special teams’ units. Making matters worse, there isn’t much depth behind Paul. Wide receiver Santana Moss is listed second on the depth chart of Washington kick returners. Moss is the Redskins’ most reliable receiver whose contributions are needed on the offensive end. Diminutive receiver Brandon Banks was inactive for most of 2012, and is not in the Redskins’ plans moving forward. Finding an efficient kick returner is a necessity for the Redskins.
But who on the current roster is available to fill that void? Second year cornerback Richard Crawford (above, with ball) could be a viable candidate for kick return duties. Although he has limited NFL experience returning kicks, he did return a punt 64 yards to set up a game winning field goal against the Ravens in 2012. The Redskins added cornerbacks E.J. Biggers and David Amerson to provide cornerback depth. Maybe head coach Mike Shanahan will have Crawford relinquish cornerback duties and focus solely on kick returns. Whether or not Crawford can excel in this new role remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it gives Crawford the opportunity to enhance his value with the Redskins.
Placekicker Kai Forbath has been a solid performer for the Redskins. He made 17 of 18 field goals in 2012, bringing stability to a position that needed some after Washington’s early season struggles with Billy Cundiff as placekicker. If Washington can find efficiency returning kicks, and if Forbath can continue his solid kicking, the Redskins will be that much improved in 2013.