With all of the upgrades to the Special Teams unit this year, I was wondering, what are the Panthers going to do about one of the highest impact ST positions next year, Punt Returner?
While I don't want to stir up the wrath of Armanti fans, I think at best its fair to say he deserves some competition at PR next year. At worst I would say he should be outright replaced. Edwards averaged 5.5 yards per return in 2011, the worst of the top 32 ranked Punt Returners on ESPN.com. AE also holds the lowest season long return with 17 yards. Not only are these stats bottom of the barrel, they are the worst by a wide margin. Of the top ranked 32 returners, not including AE, the average average return length is 11.6 yards, and the average longest return was 53.9 yards.
The Punt Return team may deserve some blame for AE's lack of production. A runner is only as good as his blockers allow him to be. However, Edwards fair caught the ball 9 times out of 32 attempts last season. This is roughly consistent with the top returners in the league last year (Patrick Peterson fair caught exactly half the time). While this may not say much, it at least says that our Punt Return team was at least able to give him a chance to get the ball. Quantifying the performance of the blockers on the team is much harder than the returner.
1. Someone already on the Panther's roster.
2. Drafting or acquiring a player to fill the role.
Looking within our roster, two candidates might be:
Kealoha Pilares. Pilares performed very well at KR last year with a middle of road 25.7 average yards per kick return, and a league tying high in kick returns for a touch down (1 lol). I like this guy and think he should get some reps at PR.
Brandon Hogan. Hogan averaged 8.9 yards per return over 22 attempts at WV. We have alot to learn about Hogan next season, but maybe he can prove himself to be a worthy PR.
Looking outside the roster, two draft candidates I've had my eye on are:
Joe Adams WR, ARK. Adams has garnered alot of attention for his famous return against Tennessee.
T.J. Grahm WR, NCSU. Grahm is an exciting to watch, speedy track star.
The Panthers might also continue their Special Teams free agency rampage and sign a return man.