There is an entire generation of Redskins fans who may only know Brian Mitchell as a guy who gets angry on TV. But a lot of us remember him as a 220 pound bald head who was asses and elbows down a football field.
Since Mitchell left the Redskins eons ago, there has been a void at the position. Rock Cartwright has probably been the best returner since Mitchell's release in 1999. And behind him? Brandon Banks (now of the CFL), maybe? Hell, we've even tried a tight end at returner.
It's time for the Redskins to try something new. Why not put a star player at returner? I know, everybody in the comments section will say it's too risky, and that a football player might get injured playing football. But other teams routinely put star players in as returners.
So who on the Redskins may be able to take over return jobs next year? Let's start with punt returns.
Led the Redskins last year with 30 punt returns, but for only 158 yards and a long of 16. He was an excellent returner at Duke, but he just didn't seem to have it last season. For comparison sake, Dwayne Harris of the Giants had 34 punt returns for 341 yards and a TD, with a long of 80.
DeSean had two returns last season for negative yards, due to a boneheaded play against Dallas. NFC East opponents though, especially the Giants, will never sleep on his abilities as a lethal punt returner. He has four career punt return touchdowns. And I know that people will say he's too important to the offense to risk, but look at some of the other players returning punts:
Tyler Lockett- 40 returns
Patrick Peterson- 32 returns
Jarvis Landry- 36 returns (one for a TD against the Redskins, that was the game-deciding score)
Darren Sproles- 38 returns
Antonio Brown- 22 returns
Ross has returned kickoffs with the Redskins, with a TD last year against the Giants. Why not have someone take over all return duties? He doesn't really have a role to play in the offense, so why not take on more special teams responsibilities?
So what about kickoff returns? It's been a mix and match of Niles Paul, Andre Roberts, Chris Thompson and Rashad Ross for the past three years or so. Last year the Redskins saw success with kickoff returns, both Ross and Roberts returning one...but some stability at the position would be nice.
Ross was sixth in the league last year with 684 yards and a TD. He'll likely be the incumbent starter and anything above 800 yards and a TD will be a success.
Thompson had three returns for 63 yards last season and has been pretty underwhelming in that role.
Why not? He's big, fast and he may not be on the field for a lot of the beginning part of the season. What better way to work him in than letting him return some kickoffs? And if he's good at it, that's just icing on the cake.