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!
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