The Detroit Lions have seemingly spent a lot of time this offseason thinking about how they can make an upgrade at returner. That obviously doesn't exactly bode well for Jeremy Ross, who has been the kick and punt returner the last couple of years, but somebody else is ultimately going to have to step it up for him to lose his role on special teams. Who might that be? Here are some candidates from Wednesday's OTA practice:
Lance Moore, Golden Tate and Jeremy Ross fielded punts— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) May 27, 2015
Golden Tate is probably the most intriguing option of this group considering he returned punts for a couple of seasons in Seattle, including his final year before coming to Detroit. He averaged 11.5 yards on 51 returns that year. By comparison, Ross averaged only 8.9 yards on 32 returns last year. Ross' numbers were much better in 2013 -- 16.2 yards per punt return and one touchdown -- but he had a much smaller sample size with only 15 returns.
As for Moore, he hasn't returned punts a whole lot in recent years. He had two returns in 2013 and one in 2012, and you have to go back to 2010 for the last time he had a notable number of returns. Even then, he only had 11, but he did average 10.2 yards a pop thanks largely to one return that went for 72 yards.
One player not mentioned here is Ameer Abdullah, who wasn't in attendance on Wednesday because of the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. He is expected to get a shot at returning kicks and punts, and he had a lot of success in that department at Nebraska. Specifically on punts, Abdullah averaged 10.2 yards on 31 career returns, and he also had one touchdown. Interestingly, he didn't return any punts in his final two years at Nebraska, but the Lions could certainly put him back in that role this year.