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On the downside, Carter did have 2 muffs in his rookie season (2018), but he hasn’t muffed a punt since Week 5 of the 2019 season, which means he’s fielded his last 45 punts cleanly (remember that Sims muffed 3 times on 43 return opportunities last season).
So, testing against our three stated criteria, Carter has experience and has had success as a punt returner. He appears to be a competent backup slot receiver, catching 82.9% of his career targets with an average of 11.4 yards per reception. He seems to meet our minimum standards.
In fact, I think there’s a very good chance that Carter is a surprise inclusion on the 53-man regular season roster as a specialist punt return man and 6th wide receiver. That’s mainly because I’ve struggled to find a better punt returner option anywhere on the Washington roster, though I may have missed an obvious candidate.
However, there are only a limited number of alternatives to Sims and Carter. Let’s look at some names.
Humphries has a good shot at making the roster as a starting or backup slot receiver. He also has experience as a punt returner.
Like DeAndre Carter, Adam Humphries also has 63 career punt returns, but at a much more pedestrian 8.0 yards per return. He didn’t return punts last season, and he hasn’t averaged over 6.6 ypr since 2018. He also had 4 muffs in 4 seasons as a punt returner.
While Humphries has a good chance to make the roster and he has experience as a punt returner, he hasn’t been as successful overall in the return game. Humphries hasn’t had a good season as a return man since 2017, and hasn’t had a season to rival those of DeAndre Carter since his rookie year (2016).
Humphries is an option as a punt returner, but not a truly appealing one.
Milne is a rookie who was drafted in the 7th round and he has a shot at making the regular season roster. Earning the role of return Signed DeAndre Carter Jersey, man would significantly enhance that shot.
At BYU, Milne had 12 punt returns over two seasons. He averaged a sparkling 11.4 yards per return on 5 returns as a sophomore, but I’m guessing (without looking it up) that his average was helped by one big return.
As a Junior, Milne had 7 returns for a combined 3 yards — an dismal average of just 0.3 yards per return.
While Milne may get some looks at punt returner in training camp and preseason, I don’t see much evidence to indicate that he’s likely to win the job.
Note – some other players I checked
RB Jaret Pattterson – no experience in college as a punt returner
CB Greg Stroman – 10 punt returns for 25 yards in 2018 & 2020 combined
WR Dyami Brown – no experience in college as a punt returner
S Troy Apke – no college or NFL return experience found
WR Curtis Samuel – no NFL punt return experience; limited KR expereince
DB Benjamin St-Juste – no experience in college as a return man
I think Danny Johnson is a lock for the KR position, and the team has at least a couple of options as backups if Johnson gets injured.
At punt returner, it looks to me like all the options are at the slot receiver position. I would probably rank those 4 players as punt return options, in order:
The decision will undoubtedly come down to three factors:
a. how the potential return men look in training camp practices
b. how the potential return me look in preseason games
c. how many roster spots are available at the relevant position, which right now looks like the slot receiver role
I suspect that two of these guys could make the roster, with one as the primary slot receiver and the other as the primary punt returner, with each acting as the other’s backup. A third is likely to reside on the practice squad.
My current projection
At this point, my money is on Adam Humphries as the primary slot receiver on offense and DeAndre Carter as the primary punt returner for special teams, with either Sims or Milne on the practice squad.
Making this sort of projection in June, based on little besides career stats as a guide is a fool’s errand, but it’s that time of year. These opinions are subject to (potentially dramatic) change as we see these guys on the field in the three preseason games, but for now, I’m placing a (very small) bet on DeAndre Carter to be one of the big surprise inclusions on the 53-man roster based on him being the most viable candidate on the roster to return punts reliably and effectively.