On Tuesday, I broke down the 10 things I have learned from Detroit Lions training camp. Except, I kind of cheated, because my last observation was something that I hadn’t learned from camp. After three weeks of practice and two preseason games, we still don’t really have any idea who the team’s kick returner will be in 2018.
The punt return game was settled long ago. Although he’s not getting many reps in practice nor in the game, Jamal Agnew is your starter. You don’t bench the guy who was an All Pro at the position last year, and there’s a reason Agnew typically ends every practice by catching “punts” from the JUGS machine.
But Agnew was not all that good at kick returns last year, as the Lions chose to split returning duties between Agnew, Ameer Abdullah and TJ Jones, among others.
With the new kickoff rules, will the Lions’ strategy change? Will anyone emerge in camp?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Who will be the Lions’ primary kick returner in 2018?
My answer: Despite last week’s bobble, I think the job is still Ameer Abdullah’s to lose. He has a pretty impressive 27.9 yards per kick return average for his entire career. He was the best kick returner on the roster last year, and in 2015, he was second in the league in kick return average.
Now if I’m being honest, Abdullah has not looked good in that role this preseason. Throughout both training camp and the preseason games, he’s looked a little too hesitant in the role—with too much east and west running and not enough north and south. Obviously, Friday’s fumble added more concern to his return game.
However, he still makes the most sense for the role for various reasons. First, his roster spot is much safer than those of guys like Teo Redding or Brandon Powell. Those two have looked decent as a returner, but not enough so where it would warrant a roster spot on its own. Abdullah, on the other hand, has flashed as a legitimate running back in camp, so his returning ability is a nice added bonus.
That just leaves TJ Jones and Jamal Agnew as the only legitimate options outside of Abdullah. Some believe that with the new kickoff rules, a kick return will more resemble a punt return. I haven’t quite seen evidence of that yet, but that would certainly seem to favor Agnew as the primary kick returner. I’m not objected to that, but I just haven’t seen him excel in that role yet. Jones, to me, just doesn’t really have it. He’s returned a total of 10 kickoffs for 211 yards (21.1 yards per return). While that’s not bad, it’s not eye-popping either.
So the most proven player on the roster is Abdullah. I think he should be on a short leash, but his proven track record shouldn’t be derailed by a weaker camp and one preseason fumble.
Who will be the Detroit Lions’ primary kick returner?
This poll is closed