Dec 31, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) and wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) work out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

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Battle for Saints' punt & kick return jobs in focus tonight vs. Jaguars

It's the most wide-open position battle this preseason

Seth Dunlap
August 09, 2018 - 1:41 pm

There's no more wide-open battle on the Saints depth chart this preseason than the one for kick and punt returner.  There are at least five legitimate candidates vying for the jobs including Ted Ginn Jr., Tommylee Lewis, Boston Scott, Alvin Kamara, and Brandon Tate.  The race even had head coach Sean Payton comparing the competition to the hit reality television show "The Bachelor".  

I wrote in June about five candidates for the return jobs, and nothing much has changed since then.  Remove the departed Paul Turner and insert recently signed Tate and everything I wrote then pretty much still applies.  It's hard to handicap the battle as, frankly, nobody has been very impressive at training camp.  

Tate is probably the slight frontrunner.  He has ammassed 200 punt and 247 kick returns over the past eight seasons in the NFL.  While he's not an electric return man, with only three total touchdowns over those eight seasons -- none in the past six season -- he's reliable and consistent.  His career punt return average of 9.8 yards put him above league average, and he's also known as a sure handed returner.  The latter is a quality that Payton reveres in his players.

Scott, meanwhile, was drafted with the idea that he could develop into a weapon in the return game.  So far, he hasn't looked the part in camp but it's early.  He's been better than advertised as a running back and there's no reason why Payton couldn't eventually turn to him as a returner.

Then there's Kamara, who will be the team's featured running back in the first four weeks of the season with Mark Ingram serving a suspension.  The team would be risking injury, and fatigue, by having Kamara serve as the team's primary returner so that's unlikely to happen.  Yet it's possible, maybe even probably, that he'll be used as a spot returner in certain situations.  He showed last season, especially on kick returns, that he can be just as electric as a returner as he is running or catching the football.

Ginn and Lewis are both options the coaching staff, but if they're at the top of the depth chart in Week 1 of the regular season that would likely be more of an indictment that the team didn't find the electric returner they were looking for.

Watch Saints' punt and kick returns closely this preseason.  There's probably no more intriguing positional battle on this team right now.

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