Per special teams coach Bobby April, the top punt returner right now is Damaris Johnson. The top kick returner is Brandon Boykin.
Boykin, a 4th round pick out of Georgia, was pretty much a shoe-in to win a roster spot, and if Damaris Johnson can fend of his competition over the next month, he’ll find himself on the 53-man roster as well.
Bobby April said Damaris Johnson reminds him of Eric Gulliford, who April coached in New Orleans. I love that Bobby thinks hard about his answers and doesn’t just give you some name that everybody knows.
“Nobody may remember him,” said April, “but he played for us with the Saints, and it’s the only time that I, as a coach… where we ever led the NFL in opponent net punt. Eric is not like Damaris because he’s not nearly as fast or nearly as quick, but he gets to every ball, they don’t hit the ground, they don’t roll, he made good decisions. (Damaris) reminds me of (Gulliford) more than any of the others for that reason.”
That reminds me a little bit of Phil McConkey. In Super Bowl XXI (Giants vs Broncos), McConkey has a 25 yard punt return that set up a TD, and he also had a long TD on a flea flicker. But that’s not what Bill Parcells praised. He praised McConkey for hustling up the field on a couple short punts that he was able to field instead of letting them hit the ground and roll. That is a very underrated and overlooked skill for a punt returner.
He also said Brandon Boykin reminds him of Tyrone Hughes, who he also coached with the Saints.
“Tyrone Hughes went to the Pro Bowl one year, led the league in kick returns with the Saints. I can’t say he looks like Deion Sanders or Rod Woodson, but he’s very similar to Hughes.”
I’ll save you the trouble of looking up Hughes and Gulliford. Here are Gulliford’s and Hughes’ numbers in the years they played under April:
|Eric Gulliford, 1996-97 (as punt returner)||57||599||10.5||0|
|Tyrone Hughes, 1996 (as kick returner)||70||1791||25.7||0|
April noted that Chad Hall, Dion Lewis, and Mardy Gilyard are also still in the mix, and had previously mentioned that DeSean Jackson could be used situationally.
A look at Damaris Johnson and Brandon Boykin on film after the jump…