By Adam Aniba
The loss of DeAndre Carter created a hole at returner for Washington. In fact, Carter was the most productive returner the team has had in years. In '21, Carter ranked third in the league with a 25.1 yard per kick return average and 8.4 per punt return.
Second year receiver Dax Milne competed with Alex Erickson who did not make the final 53 man roster, but had the most NFL experience as a returner on the team.
As an undrafted rookie with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016, Erickson led the NFL in kick return yards in '16 (810 yards) and spent three years in Cincinnati.
In the end, Erickson didn't do enough to beat out Milne, who impressed with his production as a receiver and potential as a returner. On the Week 1 depth chart, Ron Rivera named the former BYU receiver the primary KR & PR.
During his time at BYU, Milne recorded 12 punt returns for 60 yards and 2 kick returns for 32 yards. Although the former walk-on had a relatively quiet college career, in '2020 he recorded 70 receptions for 1,188 8 TDs.
Although his career return numbers don't inspire much optimism, Milne has embraced the opportunity and could add a needed spark to the return unit after the loss of Carter. Milne had the following to say during a recent team presser, when asked about being named the primary KR & PR.
“I feel really comfortable going back there and catching punts and kick returns. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do it.”
After being named the starting KR and PR, it's now certain Milne we be active on game days. Second year receiver and teammate Dyami Brown could be a healthy scratch as a result, unless Rivera elects to have all the WR's available. This is a big jump for Milne, who some considered on the the roster bubble earlier this offseason.
It's been reported, that Antonio Gibson and rookie Jahan Dotson took practice reps with the kick return unit. Unless Milne falters as a returner or they need a late game boost, the former BYU receiver will get the lion's share of the returns. Milne has been compared to another Day 3 draft pick in Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow, who also had low expectations coming into the league.
Even though Milne is the Week 1 starting returner, the leash will likely be short. Gibson's performance over the next month, while Brian Robinson Jr recovers, will go a long way in determining if AG be involved in the return game this season.
Special Teams Coach Nate Kaczor is the lone holdover from the pre-Rivera regime and will be under pressure to produce. Milne might not have been the fan choice, but he'll have an opportunity to make his mark in the return game this weekend vs Jacksonville.