Andre Roberts Wants Lead Role In Redskins' Return Game

Posted on June 12, 2014 by Harvey Valentine

If attitude and desire truly do lead to success, the Washington Redskins may have found at least part of the answer for their struggling return game.

The team signed free-agent wide receiver Andre Roberts in March, ostensibly to be the No. 2 wide receiver alongside Pierre Garcon. The April arrival of DeSean Jackson pushed him back to No. 3, though the Redskins will still count on him.

The 26-year-old Roberts said he was also hoping for a primary role as a return man.

"I would like to be the kick returner and the punt returner," Roberts said after the OTA session June 11 at Redskins Park. "But you know, everybody doesn't get what they want, but preferably probably kick returner. I would love to do that.

"I have done both in the past. My rookie year, I started the whole year at punt returner, and I did some backup work for the last two years at Arizona. … It's just the different schemes and reading blocks is all it is." 

It's an area rife for improvement in 2014. Last year, the Redskins ranked last in the NFL in kick return average (20 yards) and 28th in punt returns (6.4 yards). According to sportingcharts.com, the Redskins started 25.1 percent of their 199 drives inside their own 20, ninth worst in the league.

They tried a variety of return men, with Niles Paul and Nick Williams averaging 20.6 and 20.9 yards per kick return, respectively; and Josh Morgan and Santana Moss averaging 7.4 and 7.2 yards per punt return, respectively.

Roberts said he could provide a much-needed boost.

"I definitely do," he said. "I feel like I'm one of those players when he gets the ball in his hands, he can make some big plays. So that's what I want to bring to this team as well -- not just at receiver, also on special teams."

As a rookie in 2010 with Arizona, Roberts averaged 7.5 yards on 35 punt returns with a long of 25 yards. He also took back 14 kickoffs, averaging 23.3 yards with a long of 47. He was used only sporadically on returns during the next two seasons, with seven combined kick and punt returns.

"After my first year, I started to get used to it," he said, "and then I started [at receiver] my second year, so they don't really want the starters doing that too much. I never really had an opportunity to get in there and do it like I wanted to, so being here and having the opportunity is big, and I would love to do it."

During the workout June 11, Roberts was in the punt return group along with Williams, Moss, rookie free-agent wide receiver Rashad Ross, Chris Thompson (who began last season as the primary return man) and rookie running back Lache Seastrunk.

Although the arrival of Jackson may have bumped Roberts down a notch in the receiving corps, he still figures to get plenty of snaps in coach Jay Gruden's offense.

"I think we're going to do a lot of three-receiver stuff," Roberts said. "I think we'll be able to run well out of three-receiver sets. Obviously, you [also] have to do the two tight ends, and the fullback in there. 

"We have to have a running game, and we have a great running back in Alfred, so we'll definitely do both, but I think our best personnel is going to be three receivers, one tight end, one running back."

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