It is no secret that the punt and kick return game has suffered mightily this season for the San Diego Chargers. Jacoby Jones was brought in to fill that void for the Bolts, but he has been a train wreck so far this season. After missing three games with a non contact ankle injury, Jones has totaled negative four yards in five returns. That is absolutely outrageous and the Chargers cannot continue to play this way if they hope to succeed.
Jones has a reputation as a solid return man, but at the age of 31 Chargers fans have to wonder if he has anything left in the tank. He is not getting the job done, so something needs to be adjusted. His kick return numbers are not much better this season as he has averaged 21.4 yards in his nine attempts. He has just failed to get anything going.
The San Francisco 49ers recently cut Jarryd Hayne a former professional Rugby star who is an NFL rookie. Could he be the answer? Hayne has flashed real potential as a returner and running back in the league. He has great pass catching skills and could even be turned into a small full back if needed. He is not afraid of contact. At 27 he is not young, but he has great elusiveness as a ball carrier. Rugby is a rough sport so you do not have to worry about Hayne’s physical abilities.
The mistakes will come with Hayne as he is still learning the sport of football. The native Australian made some terrific runs against the Chargers this pre-season so fans should have an idea of his ability first hand. He has the ability to play this game.
In 2015 Hayne has had eight returns for 76 yards including a 37 yard punt return week three against the Arizona Cardinals. In all eight of his returns, Hayne has gotten positive yards for his team and that is something the Chargers cannot say. He could easily replace Jones, but there are some issues to this potential move.
Hayne is listed as a running back and returner. The Chargers are stacked at the running back position at the present time with Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver and every Chargers fans favorite Donald Brown all on the roster. Losing Jones for Hayne cripples and already thin wide receiving corp. Hayne could probably be a great slot receiver in time, but as stated he is still learning the sport. You cannot overwhelm the rookie. Hayne has also not done any kick returning yet this season and that is something Jones handles at the moment for the Chargers.
Hayne is the type of personality you want in your locker room. A player who had to fight for a roster spot and earn his position every day is a player that a full squad can rally around. The Chargers seem to be missing that “heart” that is needed to be successful in the NFL. They continually find a way to lose and that type of attitude must be eliminated before it gets out of hand. It is hard to put your finger on what the issue is within the team, but there is something there.
Jarryd Hayne could be a decent pickup for the Chargers. He is still young in terms of football age. He has decent size at 6′ 2″ and has shown very good speed mixed with a toughness and elusiveness while handling the ball. He is a handful to bring down and the Chargers would benefit from him on the special teams and in the offense as well. Frank Reich would just have to be creative in his usage of a weapon like Hayne.