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Old 08-21-2004   #1
BornOrange
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Default The Return Game

It seems that the only spot up for grabs right now is the return specialist. The main competitors for the spot appear to be JJ Moses and Vontez Duff. There are others who might make a run, but right now the smart money is on either Moses or Duff.

I have some questions about this situation.

1. Can Vontez Duff eventually make a contribution as a corner or safety?
One of the reasons Moses is fighting for his job is because he can only make a contribution as a return specialist. If Moses were also able to contribute anything as a WR on offense, his job would be more secure. Can Duff contribute anything on defense?

2. Should the Texans even have a return specialist?
Carlton Thompson had an article in Friday's Chronicle about the return game and he made the point (that has been mentioned here in the past) that someone who is a return specialist should be one of the best in the league if that is his only role on the team. If the Texans don't have an above average return man on the roster, they should just find someone who would be on the team anyway to be their return man and use the extra roster spot on someone who can contribute on offense or defense as well as special teams.
Thompson's article

3. Could the Texans split the return responsibilities?
Another possibility is for the return responsibilities to be split among several players. The most likely combination would be Gaffney on punts and Hollings on kickoffs, since they have both filled in for the Texans at those spots. Although I don't have time at the moment to research it, I know that there are a few teams in the NFL that take this route.
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Old 08-21-2004   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BornOrange
return responsibilities to be split among several players. The most likely combination would be Gaffney on punts and Hollings on kickoffs
I'll pass on Gaffney and Hollings on kickoff duties...remember the Tampa Bay game last year?
I truly hope JJ makes the roster this year...and from what I've heard...JJ will take the kick-return and punt-return duties for tonights game.
Its just unfortunate that he is small (5'6). The guy has great hands (no turnovers last year on special teams) and great bursting speed.
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Old 08-21-2004   #3
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We're deep at receiver so I have no problem with Gaffney returning punts. I do have a couple of issues with Hollings returning kicks, though: he's very valuable to us as a RB right now (even more so with DD apparently nursing an injury), and we need to see how he holds onto the ball in the rest of the preseason games. His own injury recovery has to be watched, too.

Too early to answer question 1. As for question 2, I see Carlton Thompson's point--if you're going to use a roster spot on a specialist, it better be a great one. But is it really THAT limited, to where only someone as good as Dante Hall merits that spot? I don't like the idea of writing off the return game like it doesn't matter. It DOES matter.
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Old 08-21-2004   #4
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I agree that the return game is very important. Field position is important at all levels of football, but it is absolutely critical in the NFL where teams are so nearly equal. I also disagree with Thompson to a degree in that I think if a return specialist is above average in both punts and kickoffs that he deserves a roster spot even if he doesn't contribute on offense or defense. He doesn't need to be elite, but above average.

Another point. As the Texans become better at keeping control of the ball and keeping opponents from scoring, punt returns will become more important than kickoff returns. That is why they need Moses to improve in that area of the game or find someone else.
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Old 08-21-2004   #5
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I thought Charlton Thompson had a great article and I agree with his point that you can't have a specialist unless he's the best in the league. Each roster spot becomes too valuable as the Texans improve each year.

I would go a step further and make a radical suggestion ... why not do what you planned all along ... have Domanick Davis as a returner. The first couple of plays after a return could then be handled by Tony Hollings, who you want to carry the ball 15-18 times anyway. You could say you risk injury, but you risk injury on every play anyway and don't forget that a returner is putting up 1500+ yards a season. The Texans sort of tried this last year with Hollings returning kicks, but Hollings isn't a returner and Davis is. If you're a giraffe ... be a giraffe.

Two extremely valuable things are return yards and roster spots. Remember, last year the Texans couldn't give Petey (Faggins) a roster spot coming out of camp. Fortunately, he wasn't claimed and made it to the Texans' practice squad, but what if he had been. We would have lost our future 3rd CB.

Creating an additional roster spot, without losing competence in the return game is huge! It may allow the Texans to keep a player from being claimed, like Jamaal Lord, Sloan Thomas, Kendral Starling, Charlie Anderson ...
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Old 08-21-2004   #6
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No offense and I see your logic but I think putting Davis and Hollings in the return game would be foolish and give yourself additional risk for major injury in a position we are unproven at. We need to be very careful with an injury prone Davis and a back (in Hollings) that is just now fully recovered from an ACL injury. It usually takes two full years for the connecting tissues to catch up to the muscle re-growth. We are a 5-6 win team with Jon Wells or KaRon Coleman at the RB position.
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Old 08-21-2004   #7
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No offense taken, Vinnie. I said it was a radical suggestion. I just think that the Texans have a great, young team and I think roster spots are crucial at this stage in their development. Also, they might only have to do it for a couple of weeks. For example, let's say they have to put a player on IR (say Washington), they might not need to add a player at that position, just move a guy from the 46-53 range to the 45 man roster (Weary). They then could bring a returner onto the roster.

Obviously I don't know how good the prospects are at the end of the roster, but if they are high enough quality, I'd hate to have to risk one being claimed.
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Old 08-21-2004   #8
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I think if we had two proven backs and a young draft pick being groomed your suggestion is something they would consider, so I don't consider the idea a poor one, just the timing I guess. If you ramp us up about 2 years and we still have both these guys and a young draft pick I think that is exactly what we may do. Given the fact that Dom has yet to prove outright he can play a full schedule and this is Hollings first year back 100% or so; the timing for such a plan is off a hair.
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Old 08-21-2004   #9
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I personally think there should be a dedicated return specialist. I think it's worth the roster spot without considering contributions elsewhere on the team. But that's just me, obviously. The Texans don't feel the same way.

The Texans seem to be more concerned with whether they can place another receiver on the roster than if Duff can contribute on defense.
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Old 08-21-2004   #10
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I personally hope JJ Moses can at least do punt returns, maybe letting Duff take kickoffs, Moses was one of the favorites of everyone in my section last year and he did make big contributions at some critical times last year.
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Old 08-21-2004   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny
I think if we had two proven backs ...
I agree with everything you say ... what haunts me is that we didn't have a roster spot for Petey last year and it feels to me like we have a lot of really good, young prospects (although, of course, I really don't know) ... like Jamaal Lord (doesn't he look like an incredible athlete) and Thomas and Starling (burners) and ...

I have complete confidence in the Texans ability to evaluate and develop talent. Perhaps the decisions at the end of the roster will be obvious for them and a roster spot for a returner will be easy. I just hope they don't have to 'let one (a quality prospect) get away.'
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Old 08-21-2004   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by H-TownRules
I personally hope JJ Moses can at least do punt returns, maybe letting Duff take kickoffs, Moses was one of the favorites of everyone in my section last year and he did make big contributions at some critical times last year.
I doubt, and dont think, that both will make the team, it is one or the other....
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Old 08-21-2004   #13
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Moses was a lot better on kickoff returns last year, don't think there's any way he'd handle only punts. Agree that there's about zero chance they'd keep them both.
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Old 08-21-2004   #14
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Don't think Duff can do it. Couple other guys showed some promise tonight.
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Old 08-21-2004   #15
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Correct on importance of punts as the team gets better. Unfortunately, tonight wasn't a time to find that out...
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