Cincinnati Bengal fan have gotten used to Alex Erickson returning kicks. Will he still be able to contribute with the talent they brought in through the draft?
Alex Erickson has been returning kickoffs and punts for the Cincinnati Bengals for the last two years. He has been more than adequate. His average for kickoff returns has been a solid 24.1 yards a return. He also had some punt returns only averaging 7.1 yards a punt return. He has had a couple of break aways but never scored. It is Erickson’s speed and ability to finish returns that will find him compelled to compete for his job.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected three very accomplished return men from the college ranks. Former West Virgina safety Jessie Bates, former Miami of Florida running back Mark Walton, and former Western Michigan corner back Darius Phillips will all be competing for jobs in Erickson’s area of expertise. This is where the speed comes in and the ability to finish off big plays. These three all can do that.
Jessie Bates known for his hard-hitting at safety is also an excellent hands man. Along with his speed he has the makings of a excellent return man. If anything he would be the next punter returner. The ability to see the ball and feeling the pressure quicker is all great attributes for being a punter returner. Check out 5:47 on video from one of his punt returns.
Mark Walton, a speedster from Miami of Florida, has had his fair share in the return game in 2015 season. Not only did he return but he also played the gunner position so he can play different areas in special teams.
The player that really impressed me on tape is Darius Phillips. He is the only one out of the three that scored on a return. He scored 6 touchdowns in the return game and 5 interceptions for touchdowns. He is a touchdown machine. There will be no surprise that he gets a kickoff return job.
Watch for Jessie Bates to get on the 53 man roster due to his expertise as a safety. Mark Walton and Darius Phillips should get a roster spot for special teams. It is a hard time thinking Erickson can hang with this grade of talent but we will see.