One of the most anxious and exciting plays in all of football is the kick and punt return game. With the ball capable of being turned over in more situations that you can shake a stick at, the play also brings with a high level of excitement due to the occasional punt and kick return for a touchdown. Even more so, no other plays have the ability to change momentum in such big swings.
While such events were tough on Miami Dolphins fans for years, last season saw a grand awakening for the team. Jakeem Grant had a punt return for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans, Kenyan Drake had a kick return for a touchdown against the rival Jets and Walt Aikens proved to just be a highlight reel kick and punt blocker. Overall, it was an amazing season for this area of the Miami Dolphins game.
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This season should hopefully provide more of the same. With Kenyan Drake getting better as each week of the season passed him by, Drake looks primed for a great season not only as a running back but also as a kick returner. Add into this Jakeem Grant who is always explosive and you have a return game that has yet to reach its peak.
More so, the return game may be even deeper this season should some of the Dolphins undrafted free agents fit the role of a return man. Finally, we also find star wide receiver Jarvis Landry. While Landry has never been a great return man, his surefire hands have made him the safe option when it comes to returning punts.
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That said, I am hoping that both Grant and Drake are up to the task this season. While Drake came on and played well later in the season, Grant seemed to have a major dropoff, especially in terms of his ball security. If Grant can rebound this year and Drake keeps up his improvement, Landry will not be needed.
Such an event would likely be a blessing as it takes away a major injury threat for Miami’s star receiver. Such a move would also allow Landry to focus solely on his offensive responsibilities. Another effect it could have is during his contract negotiations. With the risk of injury down from where it would be, Landry and the Dolphins might be in for easier negotiations.
In the end though, I expect the Miami Dolphins return game to be improved over 2016. While the touchdowns may not come, the overall game should be better and lead to some more momentum swings in the favor of the Miami Dolphins.