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Wednesday open thread: Who will be the Lions’ kick returner in 2018?

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The Lions have an underrated camp battle brewing,

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NFL: Preseason-Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As most of our attention during offseason practices remain on the camp battles at certain key positions on offense or defense or the performance of certain young players, there’s a specific battle brewing on special teams that could have an serious impact on the Detroit Lions in 2018.

With new kickoff rules this year, the opening play could be much more impactful this season, and therefore the Lions’ kickoff returner could be more important than ever. Last year, the Lions only returned 32 kickoffs and never really committed to a single kick returner. From Jamal Agnew (11 returns) to Ameer Abdullah (8) to TJ Jones (5) the Lions never really made up their mind on the position.

But with a new-placed importance on the position, the Lions may want to commit to one single player this year.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Which Lions player should be their kick returner in 2018?

My answer: I think it should be Ameer Abdullah, and here’s why.

First, I think it would be a waste to trade or cut Abdullah at this point. His trade value is at an all-time low, and his potential cap savings are minimal. There’s very little reason to get rid of him at this point.

But I think people forget just how valuable of a kick returner Abdullah was in his rookie season. Check this out, via Chris Burke of The Athletic.

And, again, if we tick back to 2015, Abdullah was even better — he led the league in kick-return yards with 1,077, with an average of 29.1. Among all Lions return men with at least 20 attempts in a single season, that is a franchise record, ranking ahead of the best showings from standout returners like Mel Gray (28.4) and Hall of Famer Lem Barney (26.8).

Yep, I had to double-check to make sure that was true, but Ameer Abdullah was the league-leader in kick return yards and was second in average yards per return just three seasons ago.

Admittedly, this would make the Lions’ gameday lineup a little tricky. They would have to keep Abdullah active, which would likely be a fourth running back available, including rookie Kerryon Johnson, veteran LeGarrette Blount and third-down back Theo Riddick. On top of that, they’d likely have a fullback active most weeks. That’s five different players in the backfield on a gameday roster.

Throughout most of last year, the Lions only kept three active running backs on the active gameday roster, so this would represent a pretty huge change in roster strategy.

But if kickoffs are as important as they appear to be with the rule changes, an alteration in roster strategy may be due.

If the Lions don’t want to burn an extra gameday roster spot, they could certainly let a guy like Jamal Agnew win both return jobs. However, Agnew is poised to take a bigger role on defense, making it a little risky to have him involved in a dangerous special teams play. Additionally, he didn’t look all that great returning kickoffs in his rookie year, averaging just 17.8 yards per return.

So in the end, I think Abdullah makes the most sense. Though the roster adjust is a significant hurdle, I think the Lions would be best served by utilizing one of Abdullah’s most underrated talents.

Your turn.

Poll

Who should return kicks for the Lions in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Jamal Agnew
    (181 votes)
  • 53%
    Ameer Abdullah
    (262 votes)
  • 3%
    Dwayne Washington
    (18 votes)
  • 1%
    Golden Tate
    (5 votes)
  • 5%
    Other
    (28 votes)
494 votes total Vote Now