Searching for a spark in their returns game with rookie Chris Thompson largely held in check, the Redskins gave wide receiver Josh Morgan a try in the second half of Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that the team wanted to experiment with a bigger returner to see the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Morgan could offer better production than the 5-7, 192-pound Thompson.
Thompson, who still is getting the hang of returning kicks and punts after not handling those duties since high school, averaged 22.5 yards on two returns on Sunday. He fielded his first at the goal line and reached the 19-yard line before getting tackled. Later in the game, Thompson fielded a kick four yards into the end zone and returned it to the 22 for a 26-yard runback.
Morgan, who didn’t return kicks for Washington last season, took over in the second half, but didn’t do any better, averaging 21.5 yards on two attempts. On his first, he fielded the ball six yards into end zone and made it only to the 13-yard line for a 19-yard return. Morgan fielded his second kick at the 1 and made it to the 25.
Thompson remained the team’s punt returner in the second half.
Tight end Niles Paul handled kickoff return duty down the stretch of last season and averaged 21.8 yards on 13 returns with a long of 48. Shanahan said that Paul, who had one preseason return (a 24-yard runback), remains an option, but also serves the team well as the up-back – serving as the lead blocker for the return man.
“He’s still a legitimate guy, a legitimate threat as a kick-off returner,” Shanahan said of Paul. “Josh has a little bit more wiggle than Niles does. He’s more of a power-type runner. We thought we’d give Josh a shot at it.”
Shanahan didn’t say who would handle the return duties in the next game. He said that the other nine blockers for the return men had a couple miscues on Sunday, but as a whole did well.
“We had a couple missed assignments early,” Shanahan said. “They kicked it to the corner of the end zone and we didn’t get back to the middle quick enough, and we had two guys make plays. Other than that, I was pretty pleased.”
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