By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — When Danny Amendola signed in South Beach for big bucks, the Patriots lost a clutch receiver from their roster. They also lost their best punt returner.
How the Patriots fill that void is yet to be known. Julian Edelman and his career average of 11.7 yards per return remains the best option, but given his value to the offense and his history of injuries, the Patriots might want to limit his reps on special teams. Behind Edelman, the player who might get the first crack would figure to be Cyrus Jones. Considering the Patriots spent a second-round pick on the cornerback/return man just two years ago, the team would probably like to see him contribute in 2018. But he’s going to have some competition.
Belichick spoke to the media on Tuesday morning at the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando, and he discussed all of the new additions to the team. Included among those players is Cordarrelle Patterson, who’s proven to be a gifted kickoff return man but has returned just one punt in his five-year NFL career. Belichick, though, said the Patriots would like to get a look at Patterson as a punt returner, as well as having some role in the offense.
“He’s returned kicks primarily. We’ll see how it goes with punts,” Belichick said. “Played receiver, slot back. We’ll see.”
Because it’s March, and because Belichick has yet to see Patterson even don a Patriots helmet, there were no guarantees or promises made on Tuesday morning.
“He’s been a productive player. Kind of a situational player,” Belichick said. “We’ll put him in our offense and special teams and see how it goes.”
Still, it’s noteworthy that Belichick envisions Patterson at least taking a crack at returning punts. Given his vision and speed as a kick returner, he’d presumably be a successful punt returner if he could apply those same skills. Yet while Belichick is impressed with Patterson’s speed, he made it clear that there’s no chance the 27-year-old will go down as the fastest kick returner in Patriots history.
“Nobody’s faster than Bethel Johnson,” Belichick said when asked if he’s ever had a returner with the abilities of Patterson. “Nobody.”
The Patriots acquired Patterson in a trade with the Raiders, sending their fifth-round pick to Oakland in exchange for a sixth-round pick. His lone punt return came in 2016, on which he picked up nine yards.
Jones struggled mightily in his rookie season of 2016, and he tore his ACL prior to the start of the 2017 season.
Amendola returned 27 punts for the Patriots last season, averaging 8.6 yards per return. He returned 85 punts total from 2013-17, an identical number to Edelman’s 85 punt returns during that same span.