Addressing The Return Game: Ace Sanders & Denard Robinson


Oct 6, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Ace Sanders (1) returns a punt as Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Alec Ogletree (9) in the second half of the game at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ return game promises to be much more electrifying in 2013.  With the additions of Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson the Jaguars now have way more talented return men.  While the team hasn’t outlined who will be doing what specifically, it is speculated that Sanders will be returning punts and Robinson will be returning kicks.  Either of the two players should be an improvement over the guys who fielded kicks and punts for the Jaguars in 2012.

The Jags had four players with five or more punt returns in 2012.  Here’s who went back to return punts and their averages:

  • Jordan Shipley:  7.5 yard average
  • Mike Thomas:  7 yard average
  • Michael Spurlock:  8.5 yard average
  • Quan Cosby:  9.2 yard average

Sanders comes to the Jaguars having fielded punts for his three years at South Carolina.  While the competition was obviously not as still as the NFL level, Sanders stood out.  He fielded 28 punts in 2012 with an average return of 15.3 yards and brought two to the house.  If he can get anywhere near those numbers in 2012 he will be a vast improvement over the players the Jaguars had doing the same duties in 2012.

Robinson is a bit more a question mark than Sanders.  Shoelace didn’t field kicks during his time as quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines (though he did punt twice in 2010), but he is such a dynamic player and shifty open field runner that the team should try him out and see how he does.  He doesn’t have any college numbers to compare, but he doesn’t have a tough act to follow based on the Jags’ 2012.

Here are the players who returned five or more kickoffs in 2012 and their averages:

  • Rashad Jennings:  24.1 yard average
  • Jalen Parmele:  23.3 yard average
  • Jordan Shipley:  19.5 yard average
  • Michael Spurlock:  19.7 yard average
  • Quan Cosby:  19.8 yard average
  • Richard Murphy:  23.6 yard average

Just having some stability at the return game could be the biggest benefit of having someone like Robinson back to return kicks in 2013.  That said, if he can get near 25 yards per kick return and if he returns one for a touchdown, he’ll be doing better than the guys before him.

As stated, there’s no guarantee that Sanders and Robinson are limited to or forced into these roles.  While it is speculated that they will fill them the Jaguars will begin their analysis and choose if they fit soon.  The rookie minicamp for the Jags starts on Friday and runs through Sunday which should give everyone a first look at how these two players play.

– Luke N. Sims

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