Through three games (and five kickoff returns), Detroit Lions kickoff return man Andre Roberts has been less than sensational. With teams now starting at the 25 yard line following a touchback, the 20 yard average-per-return line that Roberts is sporting is not very good.
In Sunday’s 34-27 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Roberts returned three kickoffs for an average of 22.7 yards. Although not great, it was good enough to earn a vote of confidence from head coach Jim Caldwell. “Certainly,” Caldwell told Mlive.com when asked if he was comfortable with Roberts as the return man. “Certainly”.
Roberts has also seen some reps as a punt returner, returning five punts for an average of 7.8 yards. Caldwell, not prepared to put all the blame on Roberts, also puts a large chunk of the responsibility on the blockers.
“I think, in a number of different situations there, we need to block better, give the guy a little bit more of a crack to go,” Caldwell said. “There were a couple situations where, you turn one guy loose in this league on a punt return or a kickoff return, that guy’s going to make the play. And we were not as effective as we should have been in a couple of those situations. We need a little bit more out of them.”
There are other players on the roster with experience in the return game. Wide receiver Golden Tate returned punts for a large majority of last season, to an average of 7.5 yards per return. Rookie running back Dwayne Washington was quite productive in the kickoff return game in the preseason, including a 96 yard kickoff return touchdown. Running back Ameer Abdullah was also an option as a kickoff returner, but he is currently on injured reserve.
“We have certain returns for certain guys, certain things that we have matched up,” Caldwell said. “You could see a number of guys back there. (Washington is) one of those guys.”
While there are options outside of Roberts as a kickoff/punt returner, it seems that Caldwell is content staying with him in this role for now.