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10 Things to Watch: Who Emerges as Kickoff Returner?


With training camp on the horizon, we'll preview 10 of the most intriguing storylines to watch for when the Bolts kick things off on July 28.

There will be an intense battle flying under the radar that'll play out over the next month for the Bolts – who will be the team's primary kickoff returner?

The Chargers rotated through three players in 2017 as Desmond King, Austin Ekeler and Michael Davis took turns returning kicks. King led the way with 17 returns while Ekeler had five and Davis had two.

While Travis Benjamin appears firmly locked in as the team's punt returner heading into 2018, it's anyone's guess right now who'll return kicks. In addition to King, Ekeler and Davis, there are several other Chargers qualified to take over the role.

Craig Mager spent most of last season on the practice squad, but he returned kicks at times during his first two years with the team. Artavis Scott was a dangerous returner at Clemson, showing a knack for breaking a big one when the team needed him most. Then there's J.J. Jones, an undrafted free agent out of West Georgia blessed with blazing 4.35 speed, who averaged 32.5 yards per return last year in college.

There are several other options out there for the Bolts, so it figures to be a fierce battle that may come down to the wire.

In addition, there's another wrinkle when it comes to kickoffs that's worth paying close attention to. This spring, the league implemented numerous rule changes in an effort to make the play safer.

Special Teams Coordinator – Assistant Head Coach George Stewart didn't mince words during OTAs when discussing the impact it'll have this season.

"It's going to change the dynamics of the kickoff," he said. "The premium's going to be on speed in terms of coverage. You may see some different things from a coverage standpoint. Also, you may see different things from the kicking standpoint. I don't want to give anything away… but that's going to be a big emphasis in terms of the return game as well. It's going to be totally different. You have eight guys in the box as opposed to six or five. So it's going to be a big difference there. You have no wedge in the back end. So, hopefully with speed, you have a chance for guys to get down the football field and make individual plays."


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