The Brandon Banks experiment is over. However, with his demotion last year the Redskins seemed to just fill in the blanks at kick returner (Niles Paul) and punt returner (Richard Crawford). One school of thought believes that you should find the best returner on your team rather than having to find the best returner for your team. Basically, build your team first then fill in the blanks on special teams versus using a roster spot on a return specialist who you hope can contribute elsewhere as well. Some choose to highlight the impact of the return game by citing the fact that Super Bowl champion Ravens had the best kick return game in the league (by AVG.). The return game is a constant "X-factor" in the game and the Redskin's offense would be greatly benefited by strong one.
In preparation for Week 1, this returner battle will be one to watch. Niles Paul finished last year as the primary kick returner. However, he was sub-par in that department. Among returners with at least 13 attempts, Paul ranked 2nd worst in the NFL in kick return average (21.8 yds). Add that to the fact that he is a part of a crowded group at tight end with Fred Davis, Jordan Reed, and Logan Paulsen and you've got questions marks for him. Richard Crawford, last year's punt returner, has a similar situation where there cornerback position has a logjam. However, he did well with his opportunity last year. Among returners with at least 8 attempts, Crawford ranked 1st in the NFL in punt return average (19.5 yds).
Aside from the incumbents, other intriguing options include rookies Chris Thompson, Jawan Jamison, and Skye Dawson. More of a long-shot but veteran options include Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall.
So, who do you think will be returning punts and kicks for the Redskins in Week 1?