Updated: Nov 29, 2021
By Adam Aniba
As the dog days of summer lead to pre-season, Washington will have many noteworthy position battles. The competition at punt returner has heated up with newcomer, DeAndre Carter, the early favorite, to win the job- with fellow receivers Steven Sims Jr. and Isaiah Wright also in the mix. The first depth chart was released with Carter listed as the starting PR. Of course, the early depth chart has to be taken with a grain of salt this early in the offseason, but the former small schooler seems to have impressed special teams’ coach Nate Kaczor thus far.
Although Carter's best chance to make the roster is at PR, his ability to adjust on the fly makes him an intriguing weapon as a backup receiver. The wide receiver storyline at camp has been about the absence of new WR Curtis Samuel, who is now officially on the PUP list. After keeping 5 last season, some believe Ron Rivera could keep 6 even 7 receivers this year and the developing story with Samuels could lead them to keep seven.
Carter went undrafted in 2015 ultimately landing with the Ravens, but would not make the roster and bounced around the league between multiple teams, before making the Texans’ roster for the '18 and '19 seasons. He moved on to Chicago in 2020 where he was activated for 13 games. Carter has only registered 34 rec for 386 yards in 43 career games, but his 5'8 188 lbs frame is best utilized in short bursts in a reserve role. As a punt returner, Carter has 63 att for 589 yards with a 9.3 return average and returned 45 kicks for 983 yards with a 21.8 average in his time in the NFL. His ability to make plays in the short area, make him an ideal candidate for Washington’s punt return opening.
Last season Steven Sims Jr ranked 21st in the NFL with a 6.7 punt yard average, but the mental mistakes and fumbles left a lasting impression with coaches and fans.
Carter ranked two spots ahead of Sims with 8.4 yards per return and both have experience at kick returner, but that job seems to be Danny Johnson’s to lose. With another uncertain year ahead, COVID is an additional factor that will have to be considered when trimming down the roster.
The former Sacramento State receiver utilizes every bit of his 5’8 185 lbs frame, when slipping through tackles and his college film backed it up. Carter displays some of the measurables needed to be an effective returner, foremost his quick-twitch decision making in small spaces.
Sacramento State (37 career games) 207 rec 2,260 yards 76.4 yards per game
*18 kick ret for 426 yards 23.7 average and 10 punt ret 125 yards 12.5 per ret 1 td
During his combine workout Carter ran a 4.48 sec forty, only a few short weeks before impressing onlookers at his pro day with a 6.64 sec 3-cone drill, 4.44 forty, 38.5” vertical, 3.8 sec short shuttle. In addition his 71.25” wingspan is impressive for a player with his stature. Although his production has been limited thus far, Carter fits the bill as a late bloomer.
Washington’s first exhibition matchup vs New England will be an opportunity for Carter to impress coaches as a receiver and punt returner. The rookies and depth players will get the bulk of the snaps and pre-season will be Carter’s chance to cease the day.
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*Photos credit Ed Sheahin @WFTHISTORYPHOTO and Washingtonfootball.com