Chargers followers noticed no Justin Herbert, Derwin James or Khalil Mack within the preseason.
No Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler or Joey Bosa both.
They did see DeAndre Carter. However did they actually see DeAndre Carter?
Signed to be the workforce’s kick returner, Carter performed 45 preseason snaps, all on offense.
The Chargers had 10 returns — six kickoffs and 4 punts — of their three preseason video games. Not one of the gamers who did the returning made the preliminary 53-man roster.
So, Sunday towards Las Vegas would be the first time Chargers followers see the true, full DeAndre Carter.
“Definitely excited,” Carter mentioned final week. “I’m just excited to see how our unit — our special teams unit — comes together. I think we’re going to be exciting back there this year.”
Particular groups have been a problem of late for the Chargers, a reality underscored by the turnover from final season.
Coach Brandon Staley employed a brand new coordinator in Ryan Ficken and assistant in Chris Gould. The Chargers signed a brand new punter in JK Scott and lengthy snapper in Josh Harris.
They re-signed kicker Dustin Hopkins after he made 18 of 20 field-goal tries and 30 of 32 extra-point makes an attempt in 11 video games for them final season.
And the Chargers added Carter, who’s coming into his fifth season but nonetheless has a survivor’s starvation. Popping out of Sacramento State in 2015, Carter frolicked with 4 groups over three years earlier than making his NFL debut in 2018 with Philadelphia.
Throughout one stretch, he was out of the league for thus lengthy that he took a job instead instructor at a center college in Northern California.
“A great experience, wouldn’t trade that for the world,” Carter, 29, mentioned after signing. “It teaches you to cherish the opportunity that you have and make sure that you take advantage of all the opportunities that you have and just be grateful.”
A 12 months in the past, the Chargers had the worst punt-return common — 5.9 yards — within the NFL. Chicago’s Jakeem Grant had a 97-yard punt return. The Chargers had 107 yards complete in 18 returns.
Carter has profession return averages of 9.2 yards on punts and 23.3 yards on kickoffs. His solely return for a landing got here on a kickoff final season for Washington.
He’s anticipated to face tall in 2022, this participant who, at 5 ft 8, is the shortest of all of the Chargers, a full foot shorter than tight finish Donald Parham Jr.
Given his measurement and task, Carter acknowledged after becoming a member of the Chargers that kick returning requires a sure — maybe barely loopy — mentality.
“You’re looking straight up into the sky and people are running at you full speed and you can’t necessarily see everything,” he mentioned. “It definitely takes a different mindset to be back there. Everybody can’t do it.
“… I think that it’s going out there to make a play, not to not mess up. Try to bring something exciting to a unit, knowing that you have a different skill set. It’s being explosive, being fun.”
A reminder of the Chargers’ kicking-game woes and instability — since November 2020, six coaches have overseen particular groups — got here within the second week of the preseason.
Dallas’ KaVontae Turpin returned a kickoff 98 yards and a punt 86 yards for touchdowns. In 2021, the Chargers tied for third worst within the NFL at defending punt returns.
With Carter, the expectation is they are going to have an opportunity to supply their very own particular groups electrical energy. His kickoff return for a landing final season coated 101 yards.
“If you make a big play, even if it’s not a touchdown … there’s a lot of momentum in the game that flips,” Carter mentioned. “The offense can thrive on it, and the defense can thrive on it. If you have a good special teams unit, it’s definitely going to go a long way into your team’s success.”
Given their latest performances within the kicking recreation, the Chargers would welcome some success in 2022. Simply avoiding failure could be a step ahead too.