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Thread: Thomas: Rams Need A Punt Returner

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    Thomas: Rams Need A Punt Returner

    Rams need a punt returner

    23 hours ago • BY JIM THOMAS

    As if replacing the injured Danny Amendola in the passing game wasn't a tall enough task, the Rams must also find a new punt returner.

    Although the Rams looked at a couple of potential replacements during the practice week, it still looks like rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins will handle those chores Sunday in Miami.

    "'Jenks' has run skills and he's done a good job," coach Jeff Fisher said. "I'm not concerned about it. Danny's done so much and is so comfortable with everything, and gets it. He's hard to replace, but Jenks is very explosive. We've seen what he can do with the ball in his hands, and we've just gotta get it in his hands and give him some space."

    During the preseason, Jenkins didn't get much of a chance to return punts, with one fair catch and one return for 1 yard. But he did show his open-field skills on a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown in the preseason finale against Baltimore.

    There's also some eye-opening college tape of Jenkins from last season at North Alabama.

    "I think he had 19 touches and he scored three times," Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel said.

    Which is a very good batting average as punt returners go, even at the NCAA Division II level. Jenkins' three punt returns for scores tied a school record, and all came from long distance at 87, 89 and 92 yards. But even before Jenkins, or anybody else, starts worrying about return yards, there are a couple of fundamentals that come first.

    "Ball security and good decisions," Fisher said.

    That includes looking the ball in all the way and not peeking down field at the coverage, which is something Jenkins still must improve on. Then there's knowing when to fair catch or not. And when it comes to the actual return, knowing when to turn up field or when to go wide for extra yards.

    It was just a three-return sample, but Fisher liked what he saw from Jenkins along those lines once he replaced Amendola against Arizona.

    On a night when Jenkins was very good in coverage against Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Fisher said, "Probably the most impressive thing he did was filling in for Danny on punt return, having not really fielded a punt in a (regular-season) game, and handled it and made good decisions. I was glad to see it."

    Jenkins averaged 7.3 yards on his three returns against the Big Red, with a long of 13 yards. He's looking forward to an extended run at punt returns with Amendola expected to miss at least a month with a separated SC joint — the joint where the collarbone meets the breastbone.

    "It's just another way of getting my hands on the ball, and making a play for my team," Jenkins said.

    Cornerback Cortland Finnegan joked that he wanted Jenkins exclusively on defense — that he didn't want to share him with special teams.

    To which Jenkins respectfully replied, "I think they can borrow me for a couple snaps."

    As for other options, Austin Pettis did some punt returning last season after Amendola's season-ending elbow and triceps injuries in the 2011 opener, averaging 9.3 yards on 15 returns. But Pettis had a hard time putting up his hand to signal for a fair catch. He got absolutely clobbered on several plays and looked like a concussion waiting to happen. So Pettis may not be the best way to go.

    Another potential option is rookie running back Isaiah Pead, who opened some eyes with his punt returns in the Senior Bowl last January and got some limited work returning punts in the preseason.

    Pead has been the Rams' primary kickoff return man so far this season but hasn't exactly been overworked with just three returns for a 20.3 average. Chris Givens returned a kickoff for 36 yards against Arizona. The Rams also tried a trick return that tricked no one against Seattle, with Amendola handing off to Givens after a 12-yard return. Givens lost 2 yards once he got the football.

    "We've had five games, and we've had one kickoff return per game that we've brought out," Fassel said.

    Those five returns are a league-low total. The average number of kickoff returns per team is 12.4 so far this season in the NFL. But for the Rams, 17 of the 22 kickoffs sent their way this season resulted in touchbacks. (Those totals don't include an onside kick by Seattle.)

    "I think more opportunities to get live kickoff returns will help our blockers out — to understand the speed and the angles and the attack concepts that we employ on our kickoff return," Fassel said. "We'll get (chances) because — we talked about this for kickoff return practice — they're going to come in bunches. And later in the season, the outdoor games, the balls aren't going to carry as much."

    They could get some chances in Miami because Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter has a modest 11 touchbacks in 25 kickoffs.


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    Re: Thomas: Rams Need A Punt Returner

    I'm really excited to see Jenks as the punt returner. He can really become a weapon, lets hope he gets some room today. Just another reason why he is the steal of the draft.
    THOLTFAN81 likes this.

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    renrawtruk is offline Registered User
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    Re: Thomas: Rams Need A Punt Returner

    Jenkins had a close call fumble on his first attempt, but at that same time, he is explosive. Amendola is trustworthly, but really not a threat to break one. I think there is a certain ball security issue inherent with shifty, explosive return guys. I'm ok with that trade-off. (OK, not necessarily to the extent of Az Hakim - I remember the saying that "someone was going to score when Az Hakim got the ball"...wasn't always us, lol).

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    Re: Thomas: Rams Need A Punt Returner

    I think Pead should get a go at it.


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    Re: Thomas: Rams Need A Punt Returner

    We should have placed a waiver claim on Trindon Holliday. Get rid of Steve Smith, he's straight trash.


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    Re: Thomas: Rams Need A Punt Returner

    I held my breath every time Jenkins fielded a punt. He settled down, but I'm still not comfortable with him back there.

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