The Denver Broncos believe rookie Montrell Washington can unlock the return game

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. Year after year, the Denver Broncos have wandered around the wilderness specialty team in search of a successful return with little to show for their efforts.

In fact, their hopes of turning the field in the third phase of the game have become a prime problem. Longtime NFL writer / columnist Rick Gosselin compiles special team rankings using 22 categories that have long been a must-read for coaches and players throughout the league. He ranked the Broncos last for kickoff returns last season and 27th overall.

“We need to be better on special teams, much better,” Broncos general manager George Paton said. “We know it.”

Enter the smallest player on the Broncos list, the 5-foot-8 7/8-inch, 181-pound Montrell Washington, a rookie ready for a potentially big impact. At Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, Washington averaged 11.1 yards per game. punt return with a touchdown in 2021, but in 2019 the average was 21.9 yards per. punt return with a touchdown.

The Broncos have not returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in the same season since 2013, when the youngest Broncos player ever, the 5-foot-5 Trindon Holliday, had an 81-yard punt-return touchdown to go with a 105 – yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Holliday, even as he battled ball safety issues late in his tenure with the Broncos, was the last Broncos’ recurring player to consistently get opposing teams to add a line of concern or two.

Paton selected Washington as one of three fifth-round pick for the Broncos in last month’s draft. Washington was not among the more than 300 players invited to the scouting combination, but the Broncos saw potential for something they have not had enough of.

“We feel he can be a duel return for us, he’s explosive,” Paton said. “He’s explosive. It’s him. It was a great weight. I applaud [Broncos special teams coordinator] Dwayne Stukes for the work he and [assistant special teams coach] Mike Mallory put their evaluations into that. “

Stukes said it was Broncos wide receiver coach Zach Azzanni who first made him aware of Washington in the weeks before the draft. And it was Washington’s effort on November 13 against Florida that jumped out of the game video.

In the game against the Gators that the slightly toughest opponent Samford – an FCS school – faced last season, Washington captured 10 passes for 124 yards left with a touchdown, completed a pass for 16 yards and returned a kickoff 98 yards for to touchdown.

“Coach Z said, ‘I have a receiver that I like, he’s a little castle receiver. Would you mind seeing him as a returnee?’ ‘Stukes said.” Of course I put the tape on. I know there are a lot of Florida graduates out there, so I’m sorry. But every time you have a child at Samford who has produced verses in a big program, it attracts your attention, right? … And I said, ‘This boy has talent.’ “

Washington arrives with most expectations as a comeback since Isaiah McKenzie in the 2017 draft. McKenzie held only 12 games with the Broncos after seven fumbles in total.

Washington was a significant part of Paton’s special team theme as the draft moved through days 2 and 3. Other selections in the fifth round, safety Delarrin Turner-Yell, as well as cornerback Faion Hicks, a selection in the seventh round, were selected with special teams duties at the top of their rookie-to-do list.

The only thing Washington wants is to be part of a solution with its natural return competencies.

“I do not know, I can not really describe it, I would say it’s like backyard football,” Washington said. “As kids, you throw the football in the air and you catch it and all your friends try to grab you. That’s the point return for me when I’m back there. I feel it’s a game and I I’m in the backyard. I’m just going to score. “

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