With rookie minicamp last week, we got to get our first reports on the 2022 NFL Draft class for the Denver Broncos. One of the more intriguing picks was wide receiver and, more importantly, kick return specialists, Montrell Washington.
The kick return game has been a bit of a joke in Denver for a few years now. Lagging behind in the back half of the league under former special teams coordinator Tom McMahon. However, his replacement, Dwayne Stukes was adamant about improving the return game when he was hired.
“We saw that we were ranked last in kickoff return average and last in kickoff return average against, so that will be an emphasis going forward,” Stukes said in February. “There are certain techniques and fundamentals that myself and Coach [Special Teams Assistant Coach Mike] Mallory will teach these guys that hopefully will put them in position to make plays consistently. That’s all I ask for.”
As for Washington, he has already begun to drink from the firehose of information being thrown at him from this new coaching staff.
“Really, just locking in.” Washington said on Saturday, “Understanding the plays and controlling what I can control which is learning everything I have to learn and moving forward to be honest with you.”
From the techniques and fundamentals aspect of returning kicks, there is another piece to the puzzle that Washington believes made him a dynamic punt returner in college. Fearlessness.
“I’m fearless,” Washington said of returning punts. “I just think I’m fearless back there. Just catch it and go. It’s like a game, I guess.”
When pressed on what its like to return a punt, he recalled his childhood of how kids would play backyard ball.
“I don’t know,” Washington said. “I can’t really describe it. I would say it’s just like backyard football. As kids, you throw the football in the air, and you catch it, and all your friends try to get you. That’s kind of how punt return is for me when I’m back there. I feel like it’s a game and I’m in the backyard. I just have to go score.”
It’s still just a game to him, even if on a much bigger stage. I look forward to seeing Washington make the plays the Broncos’ special teams has been lacking in recent years.
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