Jalen Saunders Role in the Offense

This post is as much for me as it is for anyone else. I want to open up with the statement I am completely spitballing.

I hear some people saying this was a bad pick and we flopped in drafting a WR this season. While I would have liked to get one of the big name receivers, I like how our draft played out. I think Saunders contributes day 1 as a punt and kick returner. He did very well in that role in college and we currently don't have anyone who appears better . I understand that most people are saying he projects in the slot and will be behind Kerley, which I agree with on paper. I do hope that we use him differently on the field. Watching tape on him he is small, quick, and elusive. The ability to return kicks like he did underscores that. You're not a threat as a kick returner if you cant make moves in the open field. I don't expect him to be an every down player for us, atleast as a rookie. I do think that he brings another element to our team that we were missing before. We didn't have any players who were capable of breaking off huge chunk plays on screens and misdirections. Kerley runs excellent routes and has good hands, but he isn't exactly elusive after the catch. I think putting Saunders in motion, moving him around the formation, and putting him in on some screens would generate some real home run threats for us. He will likely already have a roster spot simply as the kick returner, so he has value enough even if he is only used a dozen plays a game on offense.

If you look back to last season, even when we had all of our best skill players on the field, it wasn't that threatening. We had no burners, or threats to beat a 1 on 1 situation. Imagine this season with this package. 4 wide. Decker, Hill, Saunders, Kerley with Johnson in the backfield. Hill has been a wash, but at the very least he is still fast and can run clear outs. The safety has to respect him busting the top out of the coverage even if he drops a lot of balls. This leaves Decker most likely 1 on 1, a matchup he can usually win. Then you have Kerley who is an excellent route runner with the ability to find an open spot in most coverages, and the elusive Saunders, who if you brought in motion would be hard to track due to his small size. Then out of the backfield you have the chance to leak Johnson into the flat where he could break one off. I'm not saying this is a lineup which will strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams, but I do think it is much better than last season. I also think that our OC is one of the best we've had in years. I think he will find ways to work the ball around and even if each player isn't a weapon, they have things they do well that compliment each other. I for one am excited.

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