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The 5 O'Clock Club: Should Jamison Crowder be the punt returner this season?

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere...

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

In one of the press conferences following the Ravens game this past week, a reporter asked Jay Gruden if Jamison Crowder would be returning punts this season. While I didn’t write down his exact response, I think he said, “I hope so... he’s our punt returner” or something like that. He did go on to mention a couple other names, including Blackmon, whom Jay described as a potential kick returner, and back up punt returner.

In 2016, Jamison Crowder was a rare success story as a Redskin punt returner, ranking fourth in the league in punt return average at 12.15 yards per return. He broke a return for a touchdown against the Ravens in a game where the team really needed it; in fact, his play on special teams as a returner was a key part of the success that Washington had last year.

Crowder, according to many analysts, was drafted by the Redskins in 2015 primarily as a punt returner; his development into one of the league’s better slot receivers was kind of ‘bonus’.

Significantly, the Redskins receiving corps is different now than it was for the past two seasons. Gone are Jackson and Garcon, and Crowder is likely to see an expanded and more important role in the offense. He’s now the ‘starting’ slot receiver, and every extra play as a punt returner (aside from fair catches, I guess) increases the risk of injury to Crowder, who is only 5’ 8” and 185 pounds, and an injury to the team’s first string slot receiver would have a serious adverse effect on the offense.

Meanwhile, Will Blackmon -- generally regarded as the backup punt returner -- is likely to be in a backup safety role on defense this year. While no player injury is ever good, the effect of losing Blackmon from the defense due to injury received doing extra duty as a returner would likely be much less devastating than losing Crowder from the offense.

As a third alternative, the Redskins have some running backs, defensive backs and receivers in camp who are likely to see limited playing time outside special teams. It’s fair to wonder if an undrafted free agent like Zach Pascal (or other young player) might have the skills needed to return punts in order to minimize the punishment to Jamison Crowder.

Playing NFL football is a risk. You can’t just put your best players in bubble wrap, and Crowder is likely the best punt returner on the team. But winning championships also involves weighing risk, and making tough decisions. Do you go for it on 4th & 1, or punt the ball away? Seasons are won and lost on such decisions.

Poll

Should Jamison Crowder be the Redskins punt returner in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Yes
    (173 votes)
  • 10%
    No
    (34 votes)
  • 34%
    Only when the team really needs a big play
    (108 votes)
315 votes total Vote Now