In Last Weeks matchup against the Tennessee Titans, the Oakland Raiders Punt Returner Johnnie Lee Higgins, made a huge mistake. In case you missed it, he fielded a ball inside his own 10 yard line, then started off running backwards. He in turn lossed the football, only to have it recovered by the Titans in the endzone.
This particular event, paired with a couple that happened last season, have the Raider Nation wondering what if? What if we had a healthy Tyvon Branch back there? What if Darren wanted to return punts? Can Todd Watkins field the end-over-end kicks?
While pondering through all of this, I believe I found the solution... Louis Rankin.
He is our undrafted RB that came out of the Univesity of Washington, where he would return kicks, so he has the vision to do it. In all of the times I watched him at both UW, and the local Lincoln High School games, never have I seen him go backwards or try to field a ball in the presence of his own goal line.
This could be a great solution for a player who is fighting to make the roster. I would even go as far to say he would thrive at an oppurtunity to return punts. He plays football, meaning he is willing to play anywhere on the field as long as he gets to play.
When being interviewed by Bob Highfill of the Stockton Record back he was asked why NFL scouts should look at him,"I can break the long run, I can make plays, I can catch the ball out of the backfield, I can block for the quarterback and return kicks," Rankin said. "I bring a lot of things to the table, more than a lot of guys."
The picture above is his returning a kick against Cal. There are several highlights of him in the return game. He is more than capable of becoming a threat to opposing special teams coordinators around the league.
If we choose not to let Rankin field punts, so be it, but I think Saturday's game against the cardinals would be a perfect time to test him, let him have his shot and see what he makes of it.
Whatever the outcome is, we need consistency in the return game, and Rankin can provide that. And to those of us from Stockton, we want him on the squad, if you have the chance, take it.