Enigma: The Return Game

In 2001 Ronney Jenkins led the NFL with a 26.6-yard average on kickoff returns. Jenkins set a team record with 1,541 kickoff return yards, surpassing the previous team record by 10 yards on 9 fewer returns that it took him to set the previous record in 2000. That was last year. The theme has changed. <br></br> What have you done for me lately?

Ronney Jenkins long this season is 26 yards. Did we mention he had an average of 26.6 yards per return last year yet?

As the Broncos look to exploit the rookies on the offensive line, the Chargers must look to finally capitalize on special teams against a team that gave up 17 points on special teams last week. Jenkins has not been the standout on special teams many have come to know. He has had to learn a new blocking scheme to run behind and is not using his instincts and talent as he has in previous seasons.

Jenkins was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month last October. During the month, Jenkins racked up 17 returns for 527 yards for an awesome 31.0-yard average. He began the month ranked eighth in the NFL in kickoff return yards and finished as the league leader. Maybe this is his month as surely September was not.

Tamarick Vanover was out of football for the last 2 years before his old Coach Marty Schottenheimer gave him a chance again in a new environment, San Diego. Vanover was signed because he is an explosive threat when returning punts. He has been named AFC Player of the Week 6 times in his career and left Kansas City with records in kickoff returns, kickoff return yards and kickoff return touchdowns. He also tied the team's career mark for touchdowns on punt returns while ranking second in club history for career punt returns and yardage. You can see why the Chargers would want such a threat.

A new season, a new chance and terrible results.

The Chargers are led by Vanover who has returned 10 punts and is only getting 4.8 yards per return. Compare that to the No. 2 team on punt returns who averages 18.8 yards per return and it is a long road to success. (The No. 1 team is at 32.7 and named Oakland and we all know how much credit we like to give them in print). What the Chargers 4.8 yards per return are good for is 27th in a 32 team league. Even the Chargers opponents are averaging 12.6 yards per return.

It changes when the Chargers take it seriously enough to not miss their assignments and do not miss their blocks. They have 2 of the best return men to ever play the game and the tool has yet to be utilized.

At some point the return teams will break out, and last year one of Ronney Jenkins' two touchdown returns came against Denver on the opening kickoff. Tamarick Vanover returned seven punts for a career-high 139 yards in a 1999 game vs. the Broncos, including the winning 80-yarder. This could be their game.

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