There weren’t a whole lot of return opportunities during Saturday night’s typhoon. Only two kickoff returns in total, and let’s hope we see that few kickoffs from our regular season opponents too. Sadly, it’s safe to assume that our defense will allow the occasional score, and, per the NFL rulebook, that score will be followed by a kickoff.
It is always nice to strike back immediately on a kickoff, either with an electric 93-yard romp, or simply a solid run into nice field position. Finding that return man is one of the main unsettled areas of our roster. If any one player made a move in this regard, it was rookie cornerback Nolan Carroll.
First, the others. Tristan Davis returned fielded the Bucs’ initial kick, bobbling it in the rain and managing to get back to the fifteen. Not exactly highlight material. Fellow return candidate Ryan Grice-Mullen saw a sliver of action on a punt return, taking it three glorious yards before being buried by Bucs.
Nolan Carroll didn’t exactly light the world on fire either. Still, he fielded his kick cleanly, then showed very good speed and decisiveness on his way to a 27-yard effort. 27-yards? Not going to wind up on the Plays of the Week, we realize.
But when you look at the performance of the other youngsters, his certainly stood out. Factor in that Carroll will already be on the roster thanks to a stellar preseason, Davis and Grice-Mullen have a steep hill to climb.
What about Patrick “Crazylegs” Cobbs? Well, even Carroll’s modest 27 yard scamper dwarfs Cobbs’ 20 yard career return average. Carroll clearly outclasses Patrick (whom we respect hugely as a baller, don’t get us wrong) in the speed department. As we’ve pointed out in previous rants, Cobbs ran a 4.68 40, when he entered the pros. Now, older, and coming off an ACL, what type of gear can we expect out of him? Can we afford to start a return guy who can be run down from behind by most players on the field? A guy whose average return is the same as a kneel-down in the end zone?
Carroll didn’t lock anything up on Saturday, but we certainly hope the Trifecta is leaning his direction. When we gave up Ted Ginn, only our kick returns took a real hit. If we put a glorified fullback on returns, we’ll feel that loss every game. But it seems that we’ve found a spark in Carroll, a good feeling since we drafted him with our pick from the Ginn trade.
ROUND 1: Nolan Carroll.