Return Job Still Up For Grabs

As a special teams player (primarily), Darren Sporles will need to dazzle in the preseason in order to warrant a roster spot. It's not likely Sporles will carry the ball much during the regular season, so for him, its all about making his mark on special teams as a punt returner.

When asked about Sproles chance to contribute in areas aside from return duties, Coach Turner responded:

He needs to have an impact as a returner, and if he has an impact as a returner then there is a place to use him in a number of other areas. He's made some explosive plays out here in these camps. You get him with the ball in space and its real exciting. So he certainly can create some great matchups in the passing game.

Also in the mix for the punt return job is rookie Craig Davis, who returned some punts towards the end of his senior season at Louisiana State. But Norv Turner hasn't decided yet if Craig Davis is a better fit than Sproles or a number of different players competing for the job:

I really like the way he catches the ball. Again, we'll see him in the preseason. He did it the second half of the season there at LSU and he was an explosive player doing it. He looks to have very, very, sure hands. Now again, catching the ball out here when you know they're running by you and catching it in game when they're running into changes. Some guys handle it real well, and some guys don't.

To me, it sounds like there might be a question of mental toughness on the part of Davis. Like Coach said, the preseason will give us a better indication. In the meantime, there are other guys who are in the mix to return punts and they will be given an opportunity to prove their worth to the team.

I've seen some guys be great catching it in practice, and struggling in games. So we'll have time through the preseason to let those guys compete for that position.

With the punt return job still up in the air (it's all but guaranteed that Michael Turner will return kicks. He was amazing there last season.) its crucial for Darren Sproles to retain that job. If he can't show that he can be a dependable and explosive player returning punts, then he has no chance of staying with a team that has better backup running backs in Michael Turner, Tyronne Gross, and Andrew Pinnock.

And as for Craig Davis, his main value to the team is in the passing game. Its a plus that he has shown talent for multiple duties, but he is going to primarily counted on to contribute as a receiver.

Don't forget about Antonio Cromartie and Cletis Gordon. Although both are cornerbacks, they have show in the past that they are explosive runners with the ball in their hands and they have both received reps in special team drills.

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August 1, 2007

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