There weren’t very many positive takeaways from the Giants game last Sunday. The Lions gave up yet another fourth quarter lead, and lost their third game in a row. But one area where the Lions actually seem to be improving (I’m as shocked as you are) is in the return game. Return man Jeremy Ross has given both the punt and kickoff units a huge lift since he was activated in November.
What separates Jeremy Ross from other returners the Lions have trotted out is his willingness to take a risk. Ross has shown the ability to take the smallest crease and take it to the house–much like he did against the Eagles. He’s also versatile enough to handle both return duties.
Earlier this year Special Teams Coordinator John Bonamego described Ross as being a bit of a “power” return man, but he also has enough wiggle to get past the oncoming coverage units.
He’s a bigger guy and thicker through the legs. He’s a determined runner. He doesn’t go down easily. He can run through some arm tackles and is elusive enough to make that first guy miss and get it started.
Ross displayed that ability to make the first guy miss against the Giants, and turned what could have been a fair catch into a big gain.
Like I mentioned, one thing I really like about Ross is willingness to take a risk. This was one of those plays where as I was watching it live I couldn’t believe he didn’t waive his hand in air. But as players often do, he proved me wrong. Even with a guy bearing down on him he catches the punt right at 21 yard line and takes off to his left.
What Ross saw, that I couldn’t when watching it live, was a large wall that was beginning to form. The majority of the Giants’ coverage unit were rushing down the left side of the field, and Ross does a good job of quickly recognizing the numbers will be in his favor toward the other side of the field.
Here Ross shows off his nimble feet combined with that power running style Bonamego was talking about. He beats three Giants to the edge of that wall. Ross is not only able to get past them, but he also shrugs off a would-be tackler as he hits the edge. The result is a 50 yard gain that set the Lions up with great field position at the beginning of the second half.
Jeremy Ross has been one of the lone bright spots on this team the second half of the year. Jeremy Ross is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent after the season. What that boils down to is this: If the Lions want to offer him a contract, he’ll be the Lions return man for years to come. It still has yet to be seen what happens to the current coaching staff this offseason, and it’s possible a new staff may not want to keep Ross. Hopefully he’s done enough with his time in Detroit to prove he should stay. I, for one, will be rooting for him.
*All images were created using NFL Game Rewind, unless otherwise noted. (subscription required)
*Quotes are courtesy of detroitlions.com