After three days of being peppered with question about the open competition for the Detroit Lions return jobs, head coach Jim Caldwell finally caved during his Friday press conference.
“Obviously, Dwayne (Washington) is going to do our kickoff return,” Caldwell said. “Then we’ll have both Golden (Tate) and (Jamal) Agnew working in terms of our punt return. You’ll probably see them both.”
This will be the first year that Dwayne Washington will return kicks in the NFL. For two straight years, Washington has returned kicks during the preseason. Last year, his play was highlighted by a 96-yard touchdown return against the Steelers, but he hasn’t been as impressive this preseason. In three kickoff returns, Washington averaged just over 17 yards per return. He has also struggled with controlling the ball when attempting to catch it.
However, when the Lions decided to release Keshawn Martin, there really weren’t any better candidates on the roster for the job. Jared Abbrederis failed to display any return skills in the preseason and Jamal Agnew seemed much more comfortable on punt return duties.
Speaking of Agnew, it wasn’t a surprise to hear his name called as part of the punt return crew. Caldwell admitted that was part of the reason the Lions took him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. “Once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s also got quickness and speed,” Caldwell said.
What is a bit surprising to hear is that Golden Tate will be part of the mix. While Tate undoubtedly has the skill set for the positions—after all, he’s led all receivers in missed tackles forced over the past two years—the Lions haven’t really had Tate as part of the rotation much in his three years in Detroit. In 2015, Tate did return 20 punts for a quality average of 7.5 yards per return, but he did not return a single punt in his other two years with the Lions.