Since the Raiders selected kick return specialist Andre Debose in the 7th round of the 2015 draft, they have barely seen him actually perform on the field. During OTA's last year, he toe his Achilles and didn't make it to mandatory minicamp. This year, he didn't even make it to OTA's before going out injured.
The team waived him as injured Monday just before the first OTA session and Tuesday placed him on injured reserve once again with an undisclosed injury. It's an unfortunate situation for Debose who can't seem to get his career on track.
He showed great athleticism as a return man at Florida, taking 4 kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns in four seasons for the Gators. Those abilities are the reason the Raiders used a draft pick on him.
Watching Debose in rookie minicamps last season, he showed a lot of promise. He was clearly very athletic and flashed some hands as a receiver as well. The team had him penciled in as their immediate kick returner. Their hopes were put on hold and they spent the rest of the offseason and training camp trying to find the answer in the return game.
There were no free agent additions or draft picks to find a kick returner this offseason and there was some anticipation to see what Debose could bring to the return game which was 28th in punt return average, 17th in kick return average, and led the league with 3 fumbles on kickoffs. Though, to their credit, they also led the league in kickoff returns of 20 yards or more (38).
The Raiders' primary return man late last season was Jeremy Ross. He was signed midseason after being released by the Ravens, but had two of the team's three fumbles and was not re-signed following the season.
Also handling the bulk of kick and punt return duties last season were Taiwan Jones and TJ Carrie. Jones also had 2 fumbles last season, but was by far the team's leading kick returner with 31 returns for 829 yards. They will once again be the favorites to land those jobs, though a designated punt returner outside of Carrie would be nice so he can focus on his cornerback duties.
In the team's first OTA session, undrafted rookies Antonio Hamilton and Joe Hansley took turns fielding punts. That competition will open up more come training camp.