The Return Game Candidates

Posted Aug 9, 2017

The Cardinals have some options to replace T.J. Logan because there is a lot of speed on the roster. However, returning is also about sound judgment and ball security. Kerwynn Williams is expected to get the first shot at both return jobs, but there will be competition.

After cycling through myriad return man options over the past four years, the Cardinals finally found their guy when rookie speedster T.J. Logan burst onto the scene in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday.

That stability lasted less than four quarters, as Logan dislocated his wrist late in the contest and will miss 12 weeks. He could be back by midseason if the Cardinals choose to activate him off injured reserve, but for now, they are back to square one.

The return game has never been great during coach Bruce Arians’ tenure. The Cardinals have finished 31st, 32nd, 16th and 16th in kickoff return average since 2013. They have finished 31st, ninth, 24th and 30th in punt return average in those years.

There have been bright spots – David Johnson’s kick return touchdown in Chicago in 2015 and Ted Ginn’s punt return score against the Giants in 2014 – but not a lot of consistency.

It’s not an easy thing to address with small rosters and a limited pool of candidates. Johnson is probably the best kick returner on the roster and cornerback Patrick Peterson the best punt returner, but Arians doesn’t want to put them in harm’s way because of their value. (Same with safety Tyrann Mathieu, who was a return phenom at LSU but tore his ACL returning a free kick as a rookie.)

The Cardinals have some options because there is a lot of speed on the roster. However, returning is also about sound judgment and ball security. Kerwynn Williams is expected to get the first shot at both return jobs, but there will be competition. Below are the return histories of the main candidates for each job:



Kickoff return candidates
 ReturnsYardsAverageTD
Kerwynn Williams (NFL)
(Utah State)
9
135
154
3,408
17.1
25.2
0
1
Rudy Ford (Auburn) 24 574 23.9 0
J.J. Nelson (NFL)
(UAB)
2
76
53
1,932
26.5
25.4
0
1
 
Punt return candidates
 ReturnsYardsAverageTD
John Brown (NFL)
(Pittsburg State)
17
74
119
1,026
7.0
13.9
0
3
Kerwynn Williams (Utah State) 11 135 12.3 0
Chad Williams (Grambling) 6 44 7.3 0
J.J. Nelson (NFL)
(UAB)
4
35
13
375
3.3
10.7
0
1
Patrick Peterson (NFL)
(LSU)
173
27
1,664
424
9.6
16.1
4
2


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