In terms of both kickoff returns and punt returns, the San Diego Chargers were among the worst in the NFL last season. According to stats compiled by ESPN, the team’s kickoff return average of 20.8 yards put it towards the bottom of the league. The ridiculous 4.2 yards per punt return that San Diego averaged was dead last in the league.
This is an area the team will need to clean up this season, and a parade of players will likely get a look at handling returning duties.
California native Isaiah Burse should be given a long look at being that guy.
Burse played his college ball at Fresno State and put together a solid career with the Bulldogs that included a stellar senior season in which he caught 100 balls for 1,026 yards and six touchdowns. But he was also productive as a return man there. For his college career, Burse had 2,835 kick return yards and two punt returns for touchdowns.
Burse has had experience returning kicks at the professional level as well, though most of what he’s done hasn’t translated to the stat sheet.
Officially, Burse has 29 career punt returns for 211 yards as a member of the Denver Broncos in 2014. That translates to a 7.2-yard average. He also has one kickoff return for seven yards. But don’t give up on him based on those paltry stats.
During training camp and preseason games for the Broncos in 2014, Burse flashed big-play ability as a return man. It was there, at Broncos camp, where I watched Burse field countless kicks.
Though Burse didn’t make the final 53-man roster in Denver, he was given a slot on the team’s practice squad and eventually called up to the main roster to handle kick returns during games. He has good hands and is a great athlete.
Burse will be a long shot to make the team this year, and if he’s going to accomplish that feat, it will be as a return man. But what other options do the Chargers have there? Branden Oliver? Javontee Herndon?
Both of those players will get their shot, but Burse needs to be in that conversation. Should he find a spot as the team’s return man, he could also provide a lift to the team’s passing game as well.
Burse will fly under the radar all summer with this team, but don’t sleep on his chances to be a productive NFL player.