Patriots looking for answers on kickoff returns

Posted Nov. 10, 2011 @ 9:46 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Updated 2:55 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 13

One of the Patriots' staples — their special-teams units — has not had a banner year, especially on kickoff returns. Entering Week 10, New England is 30th in the league in kickoff-return average and has struggled to find a consistent return man. Four different players returned kickoffs in last Sunday's loss to the Giants, and the longest return by a Patriot this season is 37 yards (Julian Edelman).

And it's not as if the Patriots haven't had opportunities on kickoff returns. They lead the league with 29 returns (20.8-yard average).

The way we hear it, the ineffectiveness on kickoff returns is a sign of the team's lack of depth on special teams, as opposed to missing last year's return man, Brandon Tate, who had two kickoff-return TDs in 2010. "He was among the worst kick returners at the end of the season," said one daily team observer.

The Patriots signed WR Tiquan Underwood to be a kickoff returner and bring stability to that role, but he was cut on Nov. 12.