Consistent AJ Cole, Punt Return game key to Raiders success
The Punt Return Game
Hearing the volume in announcers’ voices as a kickoff or punt begins to manifest is one of my favorite things to listen to. Hopefully, Raiders fans will hear that again sooner than later. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow is consistent. Honestly, that’s half the battle in the return game. Finding someone who will field most kicks and has big-play ability. Renfrow finished fifth in the NFL in punt return yardage (303), a personal best. Only three players returned more punts than Renfrow last season, but the explosive numbers don’t add up. Consistency is one of his best traits and he has consistently muffed and dropped punts throughout his NFL career.
Since he entered the NFL in 2019, he has mishandled five punts; three in 2021 and one in 2020, and 2019 respectively. We all expect to see number 13 back there this fall, but he may have some competition in newly-signed Raider cornerback, Darius Phillips.
Phillips spent his first four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals playing sparingly in the secondary and on special teams. Phillips has an impressive background and a knack for finding the end zone with the rock in his hands. During his college career at Western Michigan, he set an FBS record with 12 total return touchdowns. He racked up 346 return yards in 2021 to go with two fumbles. In 2019, the 373 kickoff return yards but has yet to record a return touchdown in the NFL.
Improvement: Whoever is back there, stop putting the ball on the ground. Zero fumbles or muffs and the touchdown drought ends.