Hoping for a return in the return game

Posted by Darren Urban on April 16, 2014 – 11:12 am

Everybody remembers Patrick Peterson’s wonderful rookie season returning punts — four touchdowns (and a fifth he should have had if not for a shoetop tackle by the punter in the finale against Seattle). Peterson averaged 15.9 yards a punt return, the Cards averaged 24 yards a kickoff return between LaRod Stephens-Howling and A.J. Jefferson and it was generally an effective use in Ron Wolfley’s beloved “transition game.” Obviously, the last couple of years, it hasn’t been quite the same.

In 2012 Peterson’s average fell to 8.4 yards a return with no scores. A dropoff was probably inevitable, but Peterson looked uncomfortable much of the time. The kick return game dropped to 23.3 yards a return, although finding a happy medium for effective kick returns in this day and age of big kickoffs and mostly touchbacks isn’t an easy equation. Last season, Peterson’s punt returns fell to 6.0. Kickoff returns were a mere 20.0, and former kick returner Javier Arenas often looked so frustrated he rarely could return one that he did so when he shouldn’t, leading to poor field position.

It’ll make for an interesting dynamic this season. Ted Ginn was signed to add speed in the receiving corps, but it’s not hard to make the argument his greatest strength as a player is on kickoff returns (where he averaged 23.8 yards a return last season). He’s also pretty good on punt returns (12.2 yards last year), and that will provide an option if Bruce Arians decides Peterson is better served focusing on being a Pro Bowl cornerback and remove the pressures of being the guy who everyone thinks might score a touchdown every time he fields a punt. Peterson doesn’t want to give up the job, but we’ll see how it turns out in the big picture.

The Cardinals’ offense was doing much better at the end of the season and should be improved given the pieces that have been added. It wouldn’t hurt if the kickoff and punt returns could chip in to the improvement equation.



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Posted in Blog | 30 Comments »

30 Responses to “Hoping for a return in the return game”

  1. By iammattyoung on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    All PP needs to do is look at what happened to Tyrann Mathieu last year, and realize that he should hand over return duties to a guy who’s had a looooot of success returning punts in University of Phoenix stadium.

  2. By Brad on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    I know it was mentioned when we signed Ginn, but with him returning punts will it open more plays for Peterson on offense?

  3. By Darren Urban on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    Brad —

    RE: Ginn/punts

    Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s a lock Ginn return punts. I never wrote that and Arians has not said that.

  4. By MostlyRight on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    Take PP and Honey Badger out of the return game. Use Ginn or draft the little RB from Oregon.

  5. By John The Draft Guy on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    After watching the Honey Badger limping off to a season ending injury after a punt return, don’t you think the risk of PP returning punts out weighs the benefits?

  6. By Darren Urban on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Injuries

    I am a believer in that injuries happen. If they think Peterson is the right guy to return punts, he should return punts.

    I watched Mathieu try to do too much on the play he was hurt. If he would have gone down when he should of when he was first hit, I don’t think he would’ve gotten hurt. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

  7. By birdgangrising on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    I think it’s time to replace PP as punt returner. When he was producing at a high level there it was worth the risk of injury to have him do it. However, with him no longer doing so (for whatever reason, not putting it all on him) it’s not worth the risk to have him out there. If they feel they have a solid replacement, let him focus on what he excels at.

  8. By Tyrelle Dunn on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    PP better sit down somewhere. Don’t need to risk an injury to him.

  9. By jaime on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    Peterson needs the punt return job, he is a threat like no other, problem is that the other 10 are not giving him help. 5 yards give him, give him 6!!! Almost all punt returns the defender was right on him, that’s the problem not Peterson.

  10. By ored on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    part of our game we missed badly last year,maybe with ginn and patrick this year it improves

  11. By beardinals on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    Has anyone watched film and decided if it was more on the returners or on the blocking for them?

  12. By Reich on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply


    Any scheduled Draft Chats?

    Only 23 days 23 hours and 3 minutes to go, not like anyone is counting or anything…


  13. By Darren Urban on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    Reich —

    RE: Draft chat

    I’m thinking next week.

  14. By Reich on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    ^^21 Days* ^^ 😉

  15. By Dr. G on Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

    Kinda wondering if Justin Bethel may be on the horizon for returns. He is the best on ST’s and has some speed with his great athletic ability…have not heard analysis on his hands for long balls though? ….. Darren – got anything? Thx….

  16. By Darren Urban on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

    Dr. G —

    RE: Bethel

    Bethel is not a return man.

  17. By rod on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

    God I can’t wait for this season, I am mega pumped!!!

  18. By LadyBird04 on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

    Special teams need to work hard on blocking for our returners…not ALL the blame goes to the returners. PP always looks like he is looking for a TD and not just going for yards. Arenas just seemed either lost or frustrated. Coaches need to get the blockers working better as a unit and give the returners a refresher on the need to give our offense a better starting point than behind our own 20. A return for TD is wonderful but that isn’t the main purpose of our return game because it is always a long shot…get the yards and let the offense do their job – we finally have a qb, o-line, receivers and rb’s who are at the very least capable.

  19. By Ezethrell on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

    Wow everyone forgets that PP and LSH’s success in the return game were mainly attributed by their ST coach Kevin Spencer. Since he left our ST unit went from strength to weakness…

  20. By Louisville Card on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply


    That’s a very good point about Spencer. Which team does he coach for now Darren? Any chance they could try and get him back?

  21. By Darren Urban on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

    Louisville —

    RE: Spencer

    Spencer is ST coach for the Chargers.

  22. By CN Punk on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

    Our return game started to slide before coach Spencer left, P2’s and LaRod’s open holes in 2011 had more to do with Richard Marshall’s aggressive blocking on ST allowing them the couple extra yards they needed to break the big returns. When he left and signed to Miami we lost more than a capable starting CB, we lost one of the best ST blockers in the NFL. No it isn’t fair to put all the blame on the blockers or the return man, but to say it has been a down slide due to a change in ST coaches is naive. Yes the coaches put the players in position to succeed but just like any other part of football, when you lose someone with pro-bowl talent (this being ST blocking) you could see the very next year that with other teams not wanting P2 to break a long PR, ie. kicking it higher, or directionally to pin him on the sideline, that we also were missing the blocking that provided our return men with that extra half a second to get going or change direction. We just need one or two guys on ST that has the same burning passion Marshall did to provide that spark that seems to be missing, no matter who is returning punts or kickoff.

  23. By Dre on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

    They should let ginn return punts cause pp21 needs to focus on not getting burn the whole nfcwest and the afcwest has pretty good hands and Crabtree is back and we know how that story goes

  24. By John The Draft Guy on Apr 18, 2014 | Reply


    “I am a believer in that injuries happen. If they think Peterson is the right guy to return punts, he should return punts.”

    I know this is an extreme example, but if RG3 was the best punt returner for the skins, would you use him? Of course not. Why? He is too important to the team.

    I think the way Bowles uses PP, which allows Bowles to bring exotic blitzes, and play the run, I think I would say he is too important to this defense to keep exposing him on punts.

  25. By Darren Urban on Apr 18, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Injuries

    You are right, that’s an extreme example.

    We’ll agree to disagree. I understand that you don’t always want to put someone in harm’s way, but I don’t agree you take a guy out just because you are afraid.

    Let me ask you this question: Would you say the same if PP had 16.0 avg and 4 TDs a year every year? Maybe you would. I wouldn’t.

  26. By Dre on Apr 18, 2014 | Reply

    Your right on that Darren but he not so pull the plug on the return. He’s play all game on defense runs a couple of plays on the offense . So either he over work or just not getting the looks on the return but change is good .

  27. By JohnnyBluenose on Apr 19, 2014 | Reply

    Whatever the reason(s), Peterson was not at all effective as a punt returner last year. I think I would be inclined to let him try to be our punt returner but if there was not significant improvement over last year’s results then I would have someone else (not Mathieu) doing that. I agree with JTDG. Peterson is too valuable on defense to risk injury doing something that rarely benefits our team.

  28. By John The Draft Guy on Apr 20, 2014 | Reply


    To answer your question, I would think differently if he had that kind of value. But that hasn’t happened in the last two years.

    Meanwhile, he has arguably became the top CB in the game. Risk vs reward. The reward of the last two years does not justify the risk.

  29. By Big Ken on Apr 21, 2014 | Reply

    In 1974, the Redskins used Joe Theismann to return punts after he played in the Canadian league for four years. They eventually let him start as QB, succeeding Billy Kilmer.

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