FanPost

The Curious Case of Darius Reynaud

Darius Reynaud

A wide receiver/return specialist out of West Virginia, he had forgone his senior year at the school to enter the draft. He had high hopes, impressed scouts at the combine, and the New England Patriots, coming off their amazing 2007 season, had interest in him. To that young man, things must have seemed so exciting.

Then nobody drafted him, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by Minnesota, and demoted to being practice squad fodder for the entire year. How quickly things can turn...

He finally made the Vikings' 53 man roster in 2009, but at the extreme back end of it. After the season, the Vikings coaches decided it would be best to convert him to a running-back. He spent an entire off-season learning how to play his new position. When the next season came around, it was time to prove to everyone that he truly belonged in the NFL.

Unfortunately, his front office wasn't so confident. He was traded to the New York Giants, to warm the bench and watch the other players play. He spent the 2010 season there, in football limbo, before eventually being cut.

This business is so cruel sometimes.

Thankfully for him, though, there was another chance. That chance was with the small-market Tennessee Titans. He was signed as a low-stringer, again, just as he had been his entire career. He sat on the sidelines, watching the guys in front of him. I can only imagine how it would look from there. Chris Johnson was a lock, Javon Ringer looked good in his carries, and the Titans already had a Pro Bowl returner in Marc Mariani.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, doubt had to be creeping in. The cynical thoughts swirling around in his subconscious mind. "You're going to get cut again.", "You're going to be on the practice squad." ,"You have no chance to make this team."

Regardless, he made the best use of his snaps. He looked fast and explosive in the running game. He did a decent job returning kicks. Even with the effort, there still wasn't much of a chance for him.

Then, that Pro Bowl returner broke his leg.

It was unfortunate in the way it happened, but the window had finally opened for him. After all those years of waiting, he certainly didn't waste the opportunity.

So here we are, in the 2013 preseason. The roles are now reversed. Darius Reynaud has the return job, and Marc Mariani has to fight to stay on the roster. A fight he is currently losing due to injury. In just one season, he might be going from being on the field with fooball's stars in the Pro Bowl, to looking for a job, all because a freak injury gave a desperate young man the opportunity to take it from him.

This business is so cruel sometimes.

Now, here's our situation. The roster is stacked with talent, and sadly, we won't be able to keep all of it. That means that there is not enough space to keep two kick returners. A decision must ultimately be made on who we should keep and who we should release.

The point of this post is to highlight what is believed to be Darius Reynaud's primary weakness as a returner. That would be his decision making in the return-game, and how it negatively affects our offense's starting field position.

I spent hours sifting through each kick and punt return of the 2012 season, using the play-by-play information from ESPN and Pro Football Reference.

Now, we can get to the bottom of this.

A few notes first:

  • I will NOT be including the penalty yardage, so this would be the starting average field position in a perfect world where Reynaud never had a return negated via penalty.
  • I will not be including touchdown returns in calculating average field position, since the offense never took the field in those cases.
  • Touchbacks resulting from a kneel-down automatically count as the offense starting at the 20 yard line.
  • I am including the full list of Reynaud's returns, but for the sake of readability, I will put the important parts in bold. That way, you can skim through the other stuff if you need to.

Week 1 vs. Patriots

- S.Gostkowski kicks 69 yards from NE 35 to TEN -4. D.Reynaud to TEN 18 for 22 yards (T.White).

- S.Gostkowski kicks 67 yards from NE 35 to TEN -2. D.Reynaud pushed ob at TEN 38 for 40 yards (S.Gostkowski).

- S.Gostkowski kicks 73 yards from NE 35 to TEN -8. D.Reynaud to TEN 18 for 26 yards (N.Ebner).

- S.Gostkowski kicks 64 yards from NE 35 to TEN 1. D.Reynaud to TEN 21 for 20 yards (N.Ebner).

- (Punt formation) Z.Mesko punts 30 yards to TEN 10, Center-D.Aiken, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

Avg Field Position via kick return: 23.7 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 10 yard line

Week 2 vs. Chargers:

- N.Kaeding kicks 62 yards from SD 35 to TEN 3. D.Reynaud to TEN 21 for 18 yards (A.Gachkar, M.Gilchrist).

- N.Kaeding kicks 70 yards from SD 35 to TEN -5. D.Reynaud to TEN 11 for 16 yards (J.Battle, D.Stuckey).

- N.Kaeding kicks 69 yards from SD 35 to TEN -4. D.Reynaud to TEN 21 for 25 yards (A.Gachkar).

- M.Scifres punts 39 yards to TEN 14, Center-M.Windt, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- M.Scifres punts 52 yards to TEN 34, Center-M.Windt. D.Reynaud to 50 for 16 yards (M.Windt).

- M.Scifres punts 62 yards to TEN 23, Center-M.Windt. D.Reynaud to TEN 36 for 13 yards (D.Stuckey).

- M.Scifres punts 44 yards to TEN 31, Center-M.Windt. D.Reynaud to TEN 32 for 1 yard (D.Williams, R.McMichael).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 17.6 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 33 yard line

Week 3 vs. Lions

- J.Hanson kicks 69 yards from DET 35 to TEN -4. D.Reynaud pushed ob at TEN 21 for 25 yards (A.Spievey).

- (Punt formation) B.Graham punts 38 yards to TEN 37, Center-D.Muhlbach. D.Reynaud to TEN 35 for -2 yards. Pass back to T.Campbell for 65 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

- (Punt formation) J.Hanson punts 37 yards to TEN 37, Center-D.Muhlbach. D.Reynaud to TEN 41 for 4 yards (A.Palmer).

- (Punt formation) J.Hanson punts 35 yards to TEN 10, Center-D.Muhlbach, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- J.Hanson kicks 69 yards from DET 35 to TEN -4. D.Reynaud to TEN 15 for 19 yards (A.Palmer).

- J.Hanson kicks 70 yards from DET 35 to TEN -5. D.Reynaud for 105 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

- (Punt formation) J.Hanson punts 46 yards to TEN 28, Center-D.Muhlbach. D.Reynaud to TEN 34 for 6 yards (A.Palmer).

- J.Hanson kicks 70 yards from DET 35 to TEN -5. D.Reynaud to TEN 20 for 25 yards (A.Palmer; T.Whitehead).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 18.6 yard line (w/ 2 TD's)

Avg Field Position via punt return: 30 yard line

Week 4 vs. Texans (Game 1):

- Graham kicks 69 yards from HST 35 to TEN -4. D.Reynaud to TEN 18 for 22 yards (B.Braman).

- D.Jones punts 61 yards to TEN 7, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud to TEN 17 for 10 yards (B.Braman).

- S.Graham kicks 70 yards from HST 35 to TEN -5. D.Reynaud to TEN 17 for 22 yards (B.Braman).

- D.Jones punts 54 yards to TEN 33, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud to TEN 35 for 2 yards (A.Ball). FUMBLES (A.Ball)

- D.Jones punts 33 yards to TEN 15, Center-J.Weeks, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- D.Jones punts 39 yards to TEN 7, Center-J.Weeks, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- D.Jones punts 44 yards to TEN 42, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud pushed ob at HST 30 for 28 yards (D.Jones).

- S.Graham kicks 62 yards from HST 35 to TEN 3. D.Reynaud to TEN 26 for 23 yards (J.Forsett).

- S.Graham kicks 70 yards from HST 35 to TEN -5. D.Reynaud, Touchback.

- S.Graham kicks 66 yards from HST 35 to TEN -1. D.Reynaud to TEN 21 for 22 yards (J.Nading, T.Dobbins).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 20.4 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 30.8 yard line

Week 5 vs. Vikings:

- C.Kluwe punts 52 yards to TEN 33, Center-C.Loeffler. D.Reynaud to TEN 47 for 14 yards (H.Smith; M.Sherels).

- B.Walsh kicks 63 yards from MIN 35 to TEN 2. D.Reynaud to TEN 32 for 30 yards (E.Griffen).

- C.Kluwe punts 35 yards to TEN 18, Center-C.Loeffler, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- B.Walsh kicks 74 yards from MIN 35 to TEN -9. D.Reynaud, Touchback.

- B.Walsh kicks 73 yards from MIN 35 to TEN -8. D.Reynaud to TEN 23 for 31 yards (A.Jefferson).

- C.Kluwe punts 51 yards to TEN 29, Center-C.Loeffler. D.Reynaud to TEN 40 for 11 yards (T.McKenzie).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 30.5 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 35 yard line

Week 6 vs. Steelers:

- S.Suisham kicks 70 yards from PIT 35 to TEN -5. D.Reynaud to TEN 27 for 32 yards (C.Rainey; R.Mundy).

- S.Suisham kicks 60 yards from PIT 35 to TEN 5. D.Reynaud to TEN 21 for 16 yards (C.Carter).

- S.Suisham kicks 60 yards from PIT 35 to TEN 5. D.Reynaud to TEN 27 for 22 yards (R.Golden).

- (Punt formation) D.Butler punts 41 yards to TEN 30, Center-G.Warren, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- (Punt formation) D.Butler punts 46 yards to TEN 7, Center-G.Warren. D.Reynaud to TEN 16 for 9 yards (B.Batch).

- (Punt formation) D.Butler punts 36 yards to TEN 14, Center-G.Warren, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- S.Suisham kicks 73 yards from PIT 35 to TEN -8. D.Reynaud to TEN 21 for 29 yards (B.Johnson).

- S.Suisham kicks 72 yards from PIT 35 to TEN -7. D.Reynaud to TEN 25 for 32 yards (Cu.Brown).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 24.2 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 20 yard line

Week 7 vs. Bills:

(via Pro Football Reference)

- Rian Lindell kicks off 61 yards, returned by Darius Reynaud for 19 yards (tackle by Brad Smith) (team started at 23 yard line)

- Rian Lindell kicks off 64 yards, returned by Darius Reynaud for 16 yards (tackle by Bryan Scott) (team started at 17 yard line)

- Rian Lindell kicks off 61 yards, returned by Darius Reynaud for 27 yards (tackle by Kelvin Sheppard) (team started at 31 yard line)

- Rian Lindell kicks off 65 yards, returned by Darius Reynaud for 32 yards (tackle by Nigel Bradham) (team started at 32 yard line)

- Rian Lindell kicks off 64 yards, returned by Darius Reynaud for 22 yards (tackle by Ruvell Martin) (team started at 23 yard line)

- Shawn Powell punts 22 yards, out of bounds

Avg Field Position via kick return: 25.2 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: N/A

Week 8 vs. Colts (Game 1):

- (Punt formation) P.McAfee punts 39 yards to TEN 9, Center-M.Overton. D.Reynaud to TEN 28 for 19 yards (D.Allen).

- P.McAfee kicks 52 yards from IND 35 to TEN 13. D.Reynaud to TEN 20 for 7 yards (J.Hickman).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 20 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 28 yard line

Week 9 vs. Bears:

- R.Gould kicks 70 yards from CHI 35 to TEN -5. D.Reynaud to TEN 20 for 25 yards (E.Weems).

- R.Gould kicks 68 yards from CHI 35 to TEN -3. D.Reynaud to TEN 22 for 25 yards (S.McManis; B.Costanzo).

- A.Podlesh kicks 54 yards from CHI 20 to TEN 26. D.Reynaud to TEN 48 for 22 yards (A.Podlesh).

- R.Gould kicks 73 yards from CHI 35 to TEN -8. D.Reynaud to TEN 24 for 32 yards (A.Allen; C.Steltz).

- R.Gould kicks 66 yards from CHI 35 to TEN -1. D.Reynaud to TEN 22 for 23 yards (S.McManis; A.Walters).

- R.Gould kicks 68 yards from CHI 35 to TEN -3. D.Reynaud to TEN 18 for 21 yards (A.Walters; B.Costanzo).

- R.Gould kicks 62 yards from CHI 35 to TEN 3. D.Reynaud to TEN 12 for 9 yards (A.Allen).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 23.7 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: N/A

Week 10 vs. Dolphins:

- (Punt formation) B.Fields punts 48 yards to TEN 8, Center-J.Denney. D.Reynaud to TEN 9 for 1 yard (M.Moore).

- (Punt formation) B.Fields punts 54 yards to TEN 8, Center-J.Denney. D.Reynaud to TEN 33 for 25 yards (M.Moore).

- D.Carpenter kicks 69 yards from MIA 35 to TEN -4. D.Reynaud to TEN 15 for 19 yards (M.Moore).

- (Punt formation) B.Fields punts 67 yards to TEN 4, Center-J.Denney. D.Reynaud to TEN 31 for 27 yards (J.Amaya).

- (Punt formation) B.Fields punts 48 yards to TEN 37, Center-J.Denney. D.Reynaud to TEN 40 for 3 yards (R.Stanford).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 15 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 28.2 yard line

Week 12 vs. Jaguars (Game 1):

- B.Anger punts 31 yards to TEN 11, Center-J.Cain, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- J.Scobee kicks 65 yards from JAX 35 to TEN 0. D.Reynaud to TEN 18 for 18 yards (K.Bosworth).

- J.Scobee kicks 69 yards from JAX 35 to TEN -4. D.Reynaud to TEN 14 for 18 yards (M.Owens).

- J.Scobee kicks 73 yards from JAX 35 to TEN -8. D.Reynaud to TEN 15 for 23 yards (Gr.Jones).

- B.Anger punts 65 yards to TEN 18, Center-J.Cain. D.Reynaud to TEN 30 for 12 yards (J.Cain).

- B.Anger punts 27 yards to TEN 13, Center-J.Cain, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- J.Scobee kicks 72 yards from JAX 35 to TEN -7. D.Reynaud to TEN 22 for 29 yards (K.Rutland).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 19.8 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 18 yard line

Week 13 vs. Texans (Game 2):

- S.Graham kicks 64 yards from HST 35 to TEN 1. D.Reynaud to TEN 22 for 21 yards (R.Carmichael).

- (Punt formation) D.Jones punts 44 yards to TEN 5, Center-J.Weeks, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- (Punt formation) D.Jones punts 50 yards to TEN 6, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud to TEN 10 for 4 yards (D.Posey; T.Dobbins).

- (Punt formation) D.Jones punts 55 yards to TEN 20, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud to TEN 30 for 10 yards (T.Dobbins).

- (Punt formation) D.Jones punts 50 yards to TEN 10, Center-J.Weeks, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- (Punt formation) D.Jones punts 39 yards to TEN 15, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud to TEN 22 for 7 yards (J.Nading).

- S.Graham kicks 64 yards from HST 35 to TEN 1. D.Reynaud to TEN 36 for 35 yards (B.Braman).

- (Punt formation) D.Jones punts 46 yards to TEN 14, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud to TEN 35 for 21 yards (B.Ruud).

- (Punt formation) D.Jones punts 55 yards to TEN 6, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud to TEN 19 for 13 yards (S.Keo).

- (Punt formation) D.Jones punts 53 yards to TEN 7, Center-J.Weeks. D.Reynaud to TEN 23 for 16 yards (B.Ruud).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 29 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 19.2 yard line

Week 14 vs. Colts (Game 2):

- P.McAfee punts 54 yards to TEN 26, Center-M.Overton, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- P.McAfee kicks 74 yards from IND 35 to TEN -9. D.Reynaud, Touchback.

- P.McAfee punts 54 yards to TEN 17, Center-M.Overton. D.Reynaud to TEN 31 for 14 yards (K.Conner).

- P.McAfee kicks 74 yards from IND 35 to TEN -9. D.Reynaud, Touchback.

- P.McAfee kicks 74 yards from IND 35 to TEN -9. D.Reynaud, Touchback.

- P.McAfee kicks 74 yards from IND 35 to TEN -9. D.Reynaud, Touchback.

Avg Field Position via kick return: 22.2 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 21.5 yard line

Week 15 vs. Jets:

- N.Folk kicks 62 yards from NYJ 35 to TEN 3. D.Reynaud to TEN 22 for 19 yards (A.Allen).

- N.Folk kicks 67 yards from NYJ 35 to TEN -2. D.Reynaud to TEN 19 for 21 yards (E.Lankster).

- (Punt formation) R.Malone punts 42 yards to TEN 42, Center-T.Purdum. D.Reynaud to TEN 41 for -1 yards (E.Lankster).

- (Punt formation) R.Malone punts 41 yards to TEN 12, Center-T.Purdum. D.Reynaud pushed ob at TEN 30 for 18 yards (R.Malone).

- N.Folk kicks 64 yards from NYJ 35 to TEN 1. D.Reynaud to TEN 36 for 35 yards (Y.Bell).

- (Punt formation) R.Malone punts 29 yards to TEN 24, Center-T.Purdum, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

Avg Field Position via kick return: 25.6 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 31.6 yard line

Week 16 vs. Packers:

- M.Crosby kicks 65 yards from GB 35 to TEN 0. D.Reynaud to TEN 21 for 21 yards (F.Zombo).

- T.Masthay punts 21 yards to TEN 20, Center-B.Goode, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- M.Crosby kicks 64 yards from GB 35 to TEN 1. D.Reynaud to TEN 16 for 15 yards (J.Bush).

- M.Crosby kicks 64 yards from GB 35 to TEN 1. D.Reynaud to TEN 28 for 27 yards (C.Hayward).

- T.Masthay punts 45 yards to TEN 40, Center-B.Goode, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- M.Crosby kicks 58 yards from GB 35 to TEN 7. D.Reynaud to TEN 16 for 9 yards (R.Francois).

- M.Crosby kicks 65 yards from GB 35 to TEN 0. D.Reynaud, Touchback.

- M.Crosby kicks 65 yards from GB 35 to TEN 0. D.Reynaud to TEN 23 for 23 yards (J.Boykin).

- T.Masthay punts 53 yards to TEN 35, Center-B.Goode. D.Reynaud to TEN 47 for 12 yards (R.Taylor; D.Williams).

Avg Field Position via kick return: 20.6 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 35.6 yard line

Week 17 vs. Jaguars (Game 2):

- J.Scobee kicks 62 yards from JAX 35 to TEN 3. D.Reynaud to TEN 21 for 18 yards (K.Bosworth).

- J.Scobee kicks 51 yards from JAX 35 to TEN 14. D.Reynaud MUFFS catch, ball out of bounds at TEN 16.

- J.Scobee kicks 63 yards from JAX 35 to TEN 2. D.Reynaud to TEN 23 for 21 yards (B.Marshall; J.Jackson).

- (Punt formation) B.Anger punts 36 yards to TEN 11, Center-J.Cain, fair catch by D.Reynaud.

- (Punt formation) B.Anger punts 47 yards to TEN 31, Center-J.Cain. D.Reynaud for 69 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

- (Punt formation) B.Anger punts 54 yards to TEN 19, Center-J.Cain. D.Reynaud for 81 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Avg Field Position via kick return: 20 yard line

Avg Field Position via punt return: 11 yard line (w/ 2 TD's)

Recap:

So, what do all those numbers end up telling us? In 2012, our team averaged a starting field position of 22.2 on Reynaud kick returns, and 21.9 on Reynaud punt returns, with 4 total returned touchdowns.

Even with all of these numbers, the statistics still need to be broken down even further, to really show Darius Reynaud's effect on our team's starting field position.

Here's a breakdown of where Reynaud's returns started us off on the field:

Gave offense good starting field position (30+ yard line):

Kicks:

10/62 (16%)

Punts:

21/45 (46%)

Gave offense decent starting field position (20-29 yard line):

Kicks:

35/62 (56%)

Punts:

6/45 (13%)

Gave offense bad starting field position (under 20 yard line):

Kicks:

17/62 (27%)

Punts:

18/45 (40%)

A few notes on this breakdown:

  • Reynaud gave us bad field position on kick returns 1/4th of the time. Since he averaged about 4 returns per game (3.8 to be exact), that means he would pin our offense inside their own 20 at least once a game.
  • Reynaud gave us good field position on punts nearly half the time, and gave us bad field position on punts nearly half the time. Only 6 returns were in the middle area. "Boom or bust", in a nutshell.

So, what does this mean? It means that unless Reynaud is taught to be smarter about fielding the ball deep in the end-zone on kicks, and with-in the 20 on punts, it is safe to say this is a legitimate weakness of his.


I am sure the information here will be debated heavily in the comments, so I will just put this in closing:


When deciding on which return-man to keep, you must ask yourself this question:

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