Football Team

How return ability impacted Washington's cutdown day

Football Team

The Washington Football Team's key decision-makers, coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew, opted to keep seven wide receivers on the team's initial 53-man roster. While that's typically one more wideout than most team's carry, it made sense given the team's impressive depth at the position entering camp.

However, the final two wideouts that did make the team come as somewhat of a surprise. Dax Milne, a seventh-round pick, and DeAndre Carter, a veteran who has failed to stick with any organization for an extended period of time, beat out 2020 fourth-rounder Antonio Gandy-Golden for the final spot. 

During a post roster cutdown day press conference on Tuesday, Rivera said that both Milne and Carter's impact in the return game helped push them over the edge onto the roster.

"[Carter's] return ability is really one thing that caught our attention," Rivera said, also praising the fourth-year veteran's work as a wideout, too. "Then with Dax, you've got a guy with dual return ability as well."

Positional versatility is something that Rivera has stressed since he arrived in Washington last winter. Based on Tuesday's roster cuts, that position flex matters in the return game, too.

Last year, Washington had cornerback Danny Johnson handle kickoff duties. Wideout Steven Sims was the primary punt returner. But neither Johnson nor Sims did both, as the cornerback only returned one punt last year, while Sims returned just three kickoffs in 2020 after having 32 kick returns as a rookie in 2019.

Now, neither player is on Washington's roster.

 

Download and follow the Washington Football Talk podcast

As for the kick returner job, Rivera also mentioned that undrafted rookie running back Jaret Patterson "is more than available." Patterson's impressive preseason at his natural position likely earned him a roster spot anyway -- short-yardage specialist Peyton Barber was released on Tuesday -- but his ability to return kicks only helped the DMV native make the team.

Patterson didn't return kicks in college at Buffalo, but Rivera was intrigued by the possibility. He gave Patterson that chance in the team's second preseason game against Cincinnati, and the running back rewarded his head coach with a 37-yard return.

"I think Jaret can be pretty special," Mayhew said. 

The last guy Rivera specifically mentioned in regards to the return game was Adam Humphries, who entered cutdown day pretty much a lock to make the roster. Not only does Humphries excel in the slot, but he has experience as a punt returner and provides Washington some extra depth at the position if needed.

"We have a safety guy that basically catches everything, and that's in Humphries," Rivera said. "We don't really want to use Adam in that position, but having four guys that have some return ability individually, that gives you some depth at that position."

Unlike last year, Rivera has multiple options at both return positions. Based on his comments on Tuesday, he feels good about them, too.