The Denver Broncos have found a new returner in Kalif Raymond
The Denver Broncos have found a new return specialist in undrafted rookie Kalif Raymond, who showed off his explosiveness on Sunday in Jacksonville…
Two weeks ago against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos’ special teams was an absolute disaster. Coming off of the bye week, playing at home, there was no reason for the team to be so sloppy in the ever-important third phase of the game.
Perhaps the most glaring area of weakness was in the return game, and really has been all year. Since Jordan Norwood broke free in the Super Bowl on the longest punt return ever in the big game, the Broncos’ kick and punt return positions have been occupied by guys who are clearly not qualified.
After Norwood fumbled twice and made returning punts look like the most difficult task in football in the Sunday night loss to Kansas City, the Broncos were forced to make a move. Kalif Raymond was brought up off of the practice squad to give the team an astounding eight wide receivers on the active roster, but a necessary move as we all witnessed on Sunday afternoon.
Raymond got off to a shaky start, but after taking his first couple of lumps, he settled in.
“It’s my first time getting into the league, so once you get hit, it’s like ‘OK’ and everything goes away, the butterflies are gone,” Raymond said. “Let’s just play football at that point. It felt good. I felt like I was used to it. The stage didn’t feel too big and the team made it easier for me. All that I had to do was read my keys and make sure that everything was right. It made it easy for me.”
Raymond is a smaller guy, but he’s typically going to be the fastest player on the field whenever he’s on it. One worry that many have about smaller receivers or returners is their ability to take a hit. That’s not something Raymond is worried about, either. In fact, he welcomes contact.
“I like getting hit. The harder that I get hit, the more that I feel awake. That’s when I feel that I get in my zone just because of me getting hit. It’s like in boxing, everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth that first time and then the plan goes away. It’s the same thing with football. Once I get hit I start to wake up and ‘OK, let’s just play, let’s play football. This is what I came here to do. That hit was nothing. Let’s go.’ It wakes me up a little bit.”
Overall against Jacksonville, Raymond returned four punts for a total of 40 yards, breaking off a long of 22 and setting up the Broncos’ offense with great field position. If not for the ineptitude of the offense, Raymond might have been the Broncos’ key special teams performer rather than Riley Dixon.
For the foreseeable future, the job of returning punts and kicks belongs to Raymond. The Broncos had high hopes for his future, but were forced in a way to call on him a little sooner than they had thought or planned. As it turns out, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.