Jamal Agnew has made a living in Detroit for the past three years as the team’s primary punt returner, and he’s done a heck of a job. In his rookie season, he returned two punts for scores, averaged an incredible 15.4 yards per return and received first-team All Pro honors. Though it’s been a little more rocky for him in the following two years—battling injuries and fumbling issues—he’s still managed to be a well above average returner for the team.
But with special teams slowly being phased out of the NFL and Detroit adding more speed options that could challenge Agnew for the returning jobs, the Detroit Lions appear to be looking for other ways to apply Agnew’s skillset.
Peter King of NBC Sports recently sat in on a Lions team meeting of wide receivers, and as a footnote, he mentioned that Agnew was sitting in on the meeting led by wide receivers coach Robert Prince. Agnew, who King referred to as a “converted DB.” was there along with rookie Quintez Cephus, Pro Bowler Kenny Golladay, veteran Danny Amendola and the rest of Detroit’s crew of 11 receivers.
It’s not completely new for Agnew to be working with the team’s offense. In previous seasons, the Lions utilized Agnew as a gadget weapon, rushing four times for 35 yards and tossing four passes his way in his entire career. Last year, Agnew played in just 16 snaps on offense. However, 10 of those came in the season finale—lined up out wide as a receiver or in the slot on each of them. So it’s possible offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is just getting started with Agnew.
However, the Lions punt returner will have plenty of competition to get any sort of looks on offense. Detroit has speedy, agile options in running backs who can catch the ball in Ty Johnson, and rookies D’Andre Swift and Jason Huntley. Not to mention, Detroit will already be spreading the ball around between Golladay, Amendola, Marvin Jones Jr., T.J. Hockenson, and even Kerryon Johnson.
In other words, don’t expect Agnew to suddenly come out of nowhere and notch 30 catches or anything, but for those completely counting him out of a roster spot, it appears Detroit has more plans for the unique weapon than originally believed.