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Let’s have Jahan return punts this week

Washington Commanders v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

With Dax Milne sidelined with a foot injury this week, Washington needs an alternate option at punt returner. Milne has normally taken between 2-3 punt returns per game, thought he’s returned as many as five in a couple of instances (against the Titans and Vikings). He’s been sure-handed, with no fumbles this year, but his punt return average has only been 7.8 yds/return, which currently puts him at 11th in the league among those with 15 or more returns. Interestingly, he does have the most punt returns in the league, with 30.

So he’s been a steady, if unspectacular, element of Washington’s special teams game that they will need to replace for at least a game or two:

Alternative options include cornerback Danny Johnson, practice squad wide receiver Alex Erickson, and rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson.

Danny Johnson has only ever returned a single punt in the pros. In 2020, he returned a punt for 3 yards. Johnson did return some punts in college though, including a 68-yarder for a touchdown, which can be seen below:

In total, Johnson returned 19 punts in total at Southern, averaging over 15 yards per return during his four years in school. He also returned 43 kicks during that time frame.

Over the course of his six year career with the Bengals and Panthers, Alex Erickson returned nearly 160 punts. He averaged just a bit over 8 yards per return, and has never broken one for a touchdown, with his longest punt return being 38 yards. He’s fumbled 12 times on punt returns over the course of his career. Erickson is by far the most experienced of the three in terms of pro work.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Indiana at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jahan Dotson was a weapon in the punt return game for Penn State during his years in Happy Valley, returning 25 punts for an average of 13.5 yards and 1 touchdown. He didn’t have any fumbles in the return game in college.

Dotson’s punt return TD can be seen in the video below:

Asked about Dotson as a return man during the offseason, special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor offered the following:

“When you have a really high-profile player, a lot of people ask: will you put him out there? We’ll see. He’s going to be part of the discussion and part of the competition,” Kaczor told NBC Sports Washington. “He’s very capable and had very good success at Penn State. He’s showing us nothing different than what we thought we were getting and I expect that to improve.”

And the rookie WR was excited at the prospects of getting involved in special teams:

“Hopefully, I’ll get to return some punts this year,” Dotson said. “I feel like any opportunity to get the ball in your hands is a great opportunity. So, anyway I can help the team and make something shake back there, I’m willing to do it.”

In the offseason, I argued against using Dotson in the punt returning role because I believed he was too valuable as a wide receiver to risk the possibility of injury as a punt returner. Now that he’s settled into the WR3 role, and given that this should be a fairly temporary assignment, I think it’s worth seeing what we have in Dotson as a returner for a brief period.


Who should be Washington’s punt returner in Dax Milne’s absence?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Danny Johnson
    (19 votes)
  • 13%
    Alex Erickson
    (58 votes)
  • 78%
    Jahan Dotson
    (344 votes)
  • 3%
    Someone else
    (16 votes)
437 votes total Vote Now