A Revamped Return Game For The Bolts In 2012

Special teams has been in focus for the Chargers with their recent signings Roscoe Parrish and Michael Spurlock. Both players have significant value in the return game and are explosive playmakers seldom utilized on the offensive side of the football. Throw these two into the mix with recently signed Eddie Royal earlier in the offseason along with incumbent kick returner Richard Goodman and the Bolts may have a return man controversy brewing.

The word controversy implies some genuine intrigue amongst high-profile players generally, but this particular debate could be just as impactful on the Bolts' 2012 season. After the departure of Darren Sproles last offseason, the Chargers’ return game was expected to take a step back in the 2011 year.

While things may not have been quite as fruitful as in seasons past, Goodman managed to produce some solid numbers including a touchdown return during his first stint as the main kick returner. Goodman’s career numbers of 27.5 yards per return (YPR) trumps any of the other potential kick return candidates while the recently signed Spurlock has the upper hand in terms of experience. His 73 career returns have yielded 1,830 yards and two touchdowns, but his 25.1 YPR pales in comparison to Goodman.

Goodman may be in line to hold onto the kick returning duties, but the punt return position is where the team really missed Sproles in 2011. A combination of Patrick Crayton and Bryan Walters attempted to hold down that spot, but their meager production is hardly worth mentioning. Both players are no longer with the Bolts for 2012 so that position is certainly up for grabs.

When comparing the team’s recent signings, there appears to be a two-horse race for the designation of punt returner in 2012. Royal made his mark initially with the Denver Broncos as a punt return man that the Bolts knew all too well. His 81 career returns produced 967 yards and two touchdowns for an 11.9 YPR average which is quite impressive. At 5’10” 182lbs., his diminutive stature harkens back to Sproles and his explosive nature which has to be appealing to Chargers fans.

The other candidate is Roscoe Parrish who made his living as a return man with the Buffalo Bills and on 135 career returns accumulated 1,622 yards and scored three touchdowns. His 12.0 YPR is just slightly ahead of Royal’s number which makes him the leader in the clubhouse for that particular gig. Like Royal, Parrish could also thrive as a situational slot receiver when needed, but his impact will definitely be most felt on special teams.

None of these recent signings are headline makers and won’t be wowing anyone in terms of being big name players, but they could be the types of players the Bolts need most as they try to right the ship in 2012. Kassim Osgood’s special teams abilities were lost in 2011 as well and although the coverage units weren’t spectacular, they didn’t do all that bad either. Adding in guys like Spurlock and Parrish will provide the club with those all important gunners to get down the field and cover kicks in an instant.

A special teams discussion isn’t the topic du jour around most water coolers following games, but coaches and players alike know all too well how games tend to hinge on the small percentage of snaps in the kicking game. Having players capable of handling those responsibilities is a must for any football team and the Chargers have to feel good about having added some of the best in the business at doing just that to their roster in preparation for the 2012 season.

Now it’s your turn to weigh-in! Do you think there will be any controversy around who returns kicks and punts this year for the Bolts? Does it appear that Richard Goodman’s days are numbered as a return man given Michael Spurlock’s pedigree? Which return man do you believe should be returning punts in the coming season; Royal or Parrish? Do you see these players having significant offensive roles in 2012 or will they primarily be role players with minor roles in certain situations? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

April 10, 2012

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RaiderHater said... Apr 10, 2012, 9:12:00 AM

Yo Anthony...Special Teams? But most quickly forget how valuable they are to the game!  Critical in many ways...a good run back from a kickoff or a punt to us in which a solid return is yielded....well that means field position.  And a shorter field is a good field to play in!  Kick off coverage is also vital...pin the other guys deep means long field=long day baby!  I am loving all the speed and multiple threats we are sitting with.  Rivers has to be beyond excited.  Just think how scary we cold be with a spread offensive play with 4 or 5 outside...WTF who can you cover?  We would have deep-middle-slant and short dump off threats all day long with the new players we got.  Then some back field in motion as the other threat...all of them can catch too!  The Special Teams and Offense is looking scary solid (although I would like a big ass beefy RB as insurance for RM).  The Defense is the third leg of a Team...we are well similar to last year so far with a trade in and out.  We still need a pass rushing QB eating paler or two, and a SS is a must.  I am not at all comfortable with our deep cover layout either...we can only hope for a solid draft and camp mixed in with a free agency acquisition perhaps before game time.  The question was who should be the run back king...so freaking tough...I would not waste Royal on this, Goodman is solid (not great though) as he made more than a few questionable run backs from the goal line which gave us suckie positions. Spurlock could be the one I lean towards but a "run off" is great either way.  Then we have Parrish....geez...another gamer for sure...this is a great position to be in, plenty of options and lots playing to get prime time slots!  Damn it AJ, I am starting to appreciate you again (oh man, I must be losing it)!

Fbhansen said... Apr 10, 2012, 10:49:00 AM

I think with all the off season additions made by AJ on the return team(s) we are well stocked and there should be no concern. Problem is we can't bolster one position and forget about the rest. Other than the return game you'd be hard pressed to show strength and deep anywhere else on this team. Who know's maybe AJ is looking to convert some of these guys into CB's and move Jammer to safety (tongue and cheek). But it really appears like we are trying to win by blowing teams out with a high powered offense and special teams...sorry AJ if that's been tried before, most recently with the 2012 Packers and even within the Chargers organization with the Air Coryell era, and it simply doesn't work when it matters most. A strong defense, running the ball (clock management) and winnng the turn over battles wins championships so until we see some movement on the defensive side to improve the pass rush, secondary gaffs, and stop giving up so many first downs on third down conversions we haven't done anything to fix the problem.

Are the pick ups of Spurlock, Royal, Mecheam and Parrish good for the team of course they are but if you take a step back and look at the entire needs of the team going into this off season and see what has been done to date you have to scratch your head and say why no solid pick ups on the d-side of the ball (other than JJ). And for all those looking to the draft...how many first year players step in and make an immediate impact in the NFL?

Triplook said... Apr 10, 2012, 12:00:00 PM

goodman has value as a backup receiver---as long as he waits for the whistle

Pete Spinning said... Apr 10, 2012, 12:44:00 PM

I keep waiting for AJ to pull a defensive rabbit out of his hat, or something... and say "HA! See.. I WAS getting defensive playmakers the whole time!".

I really don't feel comfortable with using the draft to fill gaping holes. You MIGHT be able to have a SS come in, and make an immediate impact. Weddle is a good partner, and could show him the ropes, as we rotate him in with backups. But, pass rush is something else. Not sure we will get more than 3 sacks out of a rookie. Hopefully Johnson, Phillips, Barnes, and the new guy somehow pull off some AMAZING chemistry this season... or our coverage squad is gonna have their hands full. (See Detroit game 2011).

RaiderHater said... Apr 10, 2012, 8:35:00 PM

Whoa...is that a comment from the long lost Fbhansen!!!!!   WTF...I heard he became a Bronco fan??  I love his sometimes positive comments though rare latley....but I respect all his opinions, despite his sometimes negative comments.  He has a passion for the Bolts (unless the rumer is true and he has already bought him some new Manning Bronco Gear) and had always been there do or die.  I gotta agree I am still miffed by the lack of defensive player acquisitions thus far.  I agree blowing our wad for a $100M player made no sense....I like the resigning of several key returning players from last year.  But he (AJ) talks of buying some "D" but to date little has been bought?  I said way earlier on a blog that it is rare you find a player, let alone many, to step from the draft into first string in the NFL and make an impact.  I think we still need some free agency purchasing to fill those 2-3 positions (on D) and it is still early.  Let us not forget that sometimes players get cut from camp that are good for one Team and not for another, and sometimes a draft for a trade can materialize.  I will reserve my overview until the first preseason game....but I would love AJ to do us all some good and make a defensive buy soon that would further add to his 2012 buying streak.  As I said earlier, 2 of the 3 phases of the game now look like we are sitting nicely....but Defense is still in need....come on AJ make it happen so Pete and I can hold onto Fbhansen as a fan for just one more year :)

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