Return game finally pays dividends for Chargers

SAN DIEGO -- With one lonely punt return yard through 10 games entering last weekend’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the San Diego Chargers finally got their return game going.

Recently signed from the practice squad to the active roster, receiver Javontee Herndon had failed to provide a spark through the first two games, which included a muffed punt that turned into a fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago.

However, playing in his hometown of Jacksonville, Herndon peeled off punt returns of 15 and 18 yards against the Jaguars, helping to give the Chargers good field position and ultimately set up scores.

Herndon said the Chargers knew they would have a chance to set up a decent return, with Jacksonville punter Bryan Anger routinely outkicking the Jaguars’ coverage unit with his booming leg.

"We knew all week that he was going to give me a chance to get some yards," Herndon said. "So I just followed the ball, found where I could go and took off.

"We knew going in that he was a big-time punter. He outkicks his coverage a lot, so I took advantage of it."

The extra time gave Herndon a chance to find a crease and pop loose for some good gains.

Against the Jaguars, the average starting drive for the Chargers began at the 30 yard line. For the season, the Chargers average starting drive begins at the 22, the worst in the NFL.

Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said the improved return game was part of the complementary football he’s been preaching all season.

"The big difference was the three phases playing together," McCoy said. "And then we understood that this guy had a great leg. And the way he kicks it, we understood that if we did a great job -- and I think outside they did a good job of holding up their gunners and giving Javontee a chance. And then we were solid inside.

"Like any football play, it’s about a belief and an attitude in the kicking game of winning your one-on-one battles. Just give him a chance to get going, and more often than not he’ll make that first guy miss in space."