LA Chargers: Desmond King should not be returning punts

(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Desmond King was back returning punts for the LA Chargers in Week 7 and should never be deployed to do so again.

The LA Chargers have not had a consistently great return-man since the days of Darren Sproles. The team has had flashes of brilliance here and there, but overall, the return game has been lacking.

The team seemingly addressed that in the 2020 NFL Draft when they selected Joe Reed in the fifth round. Reed was a decorated kick returner and has returned kicks while active and was a possibility for returning punts as well.

While Reed did not return any punts at Virginia, his ability to make people miss certainly made him a candidate for the position.

Reed has not outright won the job and has not returned any punts this season. K.J. Hill has returned a few punts but was out of commission in Week 7 with an injury. Thus, the Chargers turned to their kick returner of old, Desmond King.

While King did not do anything in this game that elicited a response, the fact still remains that he should not be returning punts at all for the LA Chargers

Why Desmond King should not be returning punts for the LA Chargers:

We took to Twitter, asking our followers why they thought King would return punts over someone such as Reed. The reaction that several people sent in was that King had more potential and was good at punt returns.

Can someone who is smarter than me explain why Reed doesn’t also return punts?

— Bolt Beat (@BB_Chargers) October 25, 2020

That is a myth.

King has had some big plays in some big moments, we will give him that. He had a punt return touchdown last season and had the huge punt return touchdown against Pittsburgh in 2018. The problem is that King peaked in 2018 and has not come close to that level since.

King has returned 26 punts since the start of last season. In that span, he is averaging five yards per return. If that sounds bad it is because it is — it ranks dead last among the 21 players with at least 20 punt returns in that time frame.

Here is the kicker: King did have that one 68-yard punt return touchdown last season, which he absolutely does deserve credit for. However, if you take out that one punt return, his average over the last two seasons drops all the way to 2.58 yards.

That is less than half the next-worst player in the league, De’Anthony Thomas, who has averaged 5.69 yards per punt return over the last two seasons.

Here’s another kicker: if we take out that one punt return touchdown then King would have averaged 2.5 yards per return on exactly 20 returns — this would have been the fifth-lowest in a single-season all-time.

What is the answer? K.J. Hill when he is healthy and perhaps Joe Reed when he is not. I get that he did not return punts in college, and perhaps he is struggling in practice, but I just cannot see how the LA Chargers can keep throwing a complete non-factor back there at the tail-end of punts.

Next. Overreactions from Week 7's win

There has to be a better option on this roster, even when Hill is out. It does not get much worse than King.