Las Vegas Raiders first 2022 depth chart is full of surprises
Hunter Renfrow returning punts over Darius Phillips
After two offensive and defensive surprises on the Raiders’ first depth chart, it only makes sense to end with a surprise in the special teams unit. That surprise is Hunter Renfrow being named the team’s punt returner over specialist Darius Phillips.
Let’s talk about Renfrow first. The Raiders’ receiver has proven himself to be a force as a punt returner, finishing in the top-10 for average yards per punt return in 2021. Beyond that, who can forgot Renfrow’s sensational play against the Chargers, when the 26-year-old sniffed out a fake and delivered a hit that broke up a pass on fourth-down? Play of the year material.
The surprise doesn’t lie in Renfrow’s ability to be a punt returner, not in the least. It’s in the fact Las Vegas gave Hunter Renfrow a two-year, $32 million extension this offseason. Beyond that, the first player to agree to terms with the Raiders once free agency begun was return specialist Darius Phillips.
While Renfrow may be the better [punt] return man of the two, it just seems odd the Raiders would risk their $32 million dollar investment when there’s simply no need to. Darius Phillips is now on the roster, and the Raiders should take full advantage of that.
Here’s the thing; If Las Vegas concludes Phillips isn’t what they hoped he would be as a returner, the team could always throw Renfrow back out there. In the meantime, there’s simply no reason to do that and risk a potential injury on the Pro Bowl receiver.
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It’s a move that comes as a headscratcher, but there’s still plenty of time left. As is, Phillips will likely be the return man during the preseason while Renfrow sits back and watches. If Phillips excels throughout the preseason, it’s probable he rises up and takes the return job. Until then, though, Renfrow remains the starting punt returner for the Las Vegas Raiders.