Who Will Win Washington Redskins' Return Man Battle?

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Who Will Win Washington Redskins' Return Man Battle?
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

A veteran-laden team that returns 16 starters from last season, the Washington Redskins have very little brewing when it comes to position battles.

But you can count the ongoing competition at kick returner as one of the few.

Dismal across the board on special teams in 2013, head coach Jay Gruden has made it a point to upgrade this unit this offseason.

While it's too early to determine how much the Redskins have improved in kick coverage, it's evident that the team has a better batch of return men to sift through this go-round.

Last in the NFL in punt and kick return average a season ago, Washington's leading returners in 2013 were tight end Niles Paul and 35-year-old Santana Moss. Once again, the team didn't have a return touchdown. A feat that hasn't been accomplished since 2010.

Entering the 2014 season, though, Gruden will have his pick of Andre Roberts, Lache Seastrunk and Chris Thompson to shore up this position.

So, who will win the job?

Ask Roberts, as a league of reporters did following Washington's minicamp, and he's the man for the job.

"I think I’ll be a returner,” Roberts said, via Mark Maske of The Washington Post.

More quick than fast, Roberts didn't excel in his stint as the Arizona Cardinals' return man. He averaged 22.4 yards on 22 kick returns and 6.9 yards on 40 punt returns during his tenure with them.

But with the majority of these reps coming during his rookie campaign, Roberts expressed that he's now more prepared for the job:

After my first year, I started to get used to it. Then I started my second year so they really don’t want the starters doing that too much. I never really had the 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.

Still, even if Roberts can improve on his career numbers, his place within Washington's offense and his relatively lack of upside should preclude him from winning the job.

Now it's left to a two-man race. In sizing up Seastrunk's strengths, he'd be an ideal candidate to go with.

Jet-quick with excellent change-of-direction ability, there's reason to believe that Seastrunk could excel in the open field as a return man.

All that's missing is, well, actual reps. During his collegiate stops at Baylor and Oregon, Seastrunk returned a grand total of one kick.

Even with the physical tools to make the transition, it's hard to imagine a novice like Seastrunk garnering the job.

This just leaves Thompson. A blazer like Seastrunk, Washington has actually witnessedin live game action!Thompson's skills translate as a return man.

Versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last preseason, he had a 69-yard punt-return touchdown.

Ultimately, while Thompson did struggle returning kicks in limited reps last season, the fact he's gotten his feet wet makes him a more logical candidate than Seastrunk.

If Thompson can just post league-average numbers as a returner, Washington's offense would be that much more lethal.

Boasting a offense featuring the likes of Robert Griffin III, DeSean Jackson, Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon, the Redskins would be primed to be one of the NFL's top scoring teams in 2014 with the field position that Thompson could net them.

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