For Lions' Jamal Agnew, becoming NFL's top punt returner was a snap

From ESPN - November 15, 2017

DETROIT -- The ball is in the air, off an opposing punters foot, and Jamal Agnew knows it is almost time for him to go. By now, in the middle of his rookie season with the Detroit Lions, he trusts whats happening ahead of him.

Hell glance to see angles of the gunners. Hell check his protection. But when he makes the decision to attempt a return, he searches for the sliver of room hell need to break open a return and change a game.

It has worked better than Agnew ever expected.

Halfway through his first season in the league, he has become the NFLs best punt returner.

I thought I would have an impact on special teams, but not this tremendous, to be honest, Agnew said. I didnt think it would be like this. I definitely thought, coming in, it would be a special-teams role, but I didnt think Id have this crazy of an impact right now, to be honest.

Agnew is the only player in the NFL with two punt returns for touchdowns this season, and on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns he came close to having a third. Hes averaging 18.26 yards per return, 4.47 yards better than the Baltimore Ravens' Michael Campanaro.

Since 2001, only one player has had a better full-season punt return average than what Agnew has so far: The Buffalo Bills' Leodis McKelvin, with 18.74 yards per return in 2012. If this pace remains, Agnew will have a better return season than Devin Hester, Josh Cribbs or Dante Hall ever had.

As of now, Agnew's 18.26 yards per return would rank No. 11 all time -- well behind Lions Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Christiansens 21.5 yards per return in 1952 and just ahead of Hester, whose best season was 17.09 yards per return in 2010.

Agnew has 347 punt return yards this season. No other player in the league has more than 200 yards.

Yeah, you give him a little crack and some space and he can make some things happen, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. And particularly when the situation is where they give you something that you have an opportunity, its not one of the sky balls that you got to fair catch.

When its got some distance on it, he can cover some ground.

Agnew has become a must-see attraction. Whenever hes on the field, he's one of the few players on the Lions with the capability of turning in a big play any time he touches the ball.


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