The Washington Redskins' return game should receive a boost this season. They needed one.
Andre Roberts struggled as a punt returner last season, averaging 7.4 yards. That was nothing new: In Arizona, he averaged 6.9 yards on 40 punt returns. Hence, the addition of rookie Jamison Crowder. Yes, there are other ongoing issues with him right now, though the team does appear confident in its resolution.
On the field, he can provide help in a big way as a punt returner. Based on watching his games at Duke and in watching him during the open portion of the organized team activity sessions, Crowder’s quickness is hard to miss. He has a knack for making defenders miss because he knows how to set them up. He knows when he must sprint immediately or when he can set up a defender with a fake only to burst the other way.
It’s why he should be effective on bubble screens as well. On those plays, you have to combine a dash of patience with an excellent burst. The other day, Crowder took a pass and, knowing the defense was swarming, took off immediately. Other times, he’ll need to set up a block with a slight pause.
Regardless, those same skills will help the return game. He’s just more explosive than Roberts.
I’m not sure what they will do yet on kick returns. In spring workouts, when the media can watch, Roberts has been the guy catching the first kickoff. Crowder caught some as well, as did Rashad Ross, Bashaud Breeland, Chris Thompson and Trey Williams. Roberts averaged 23.7 yards per kick return. And the Redskins ranked 24th last season with only 55.6 percent of their kick returns reaching the 20-yard line. They need every yard to give themselves a chance to improve. It appears they will do so on punt returns; with kick returns it’s a work in progress.