During last night’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, U-T San Diego beat writer Michael Gehlken tweeted “Keenan Allen gets first try as Chargers punt returner. Eddie Royal also vying for that spot.”
Royal played four seasons with the Denver Broncos and during his tenure with them, he ranked third among active players with an average of 12 yards per punt return. Royal struggled in his first season with San Diego, ranking last on the team with an average of 5.3 yards per punt return. Allen averaged 14 yards per punt return and had a punt return touchdown last year in his final collegiate season with the California Golden Bears.
Danario Alexander tore his ACL this week and is out for season. Royal was Alexander’s no. 1 backup and he started last night’s game. San Diego’s coaching staff is high on Vincent Brown though, and he could start alongside Malcom Floyd once the former is ready to play.
While the coaches are huge fans of Brown, he missed the entire 2012 season with a broken ankle and missed seven of San Diego’s 10 practices this year. Brown should and will get playing time, but perhaps the battle to see who will start alongside Floyd should be between Allen and Royal.
If San Diego’s coaching staff goes with Royal in the starting lineup at WR, then Allen should return punts. If Allen starts, Royal should return punts.
Allen is the all-time leader in receptions at California and Royal has one decent season as a receiver since 2008, so San Diego’s coaching staff should consider Allen over Royal at WR.
Royal is capable of bouncing back as a punt returner because his worst season prior to last year was 10 yards per punt return as a rookie in 2008. Royal’s NFL experience as a punt returner could make him a better option than Allen in the role, at least for this season.