Surprise Bengals Starters – No. 2: Trent Taylor, Punt Returner
The second player who could surprise everyone and earn a starting role for the Bengals is a fresh face, newly-acquired wide receiver Trent Taylor. Most people assume that Taylor clearly is not going to be starting on offense over players like Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. He’s also a punt returner, and with the departure of Alex Erickson in free agency, the 27-year old veteran could find himself starting on special teams.
While many expect Brandon Wilson or Darius Phillips to take Erickson’s punt returning responsibilities, the Bengals’ coaching staff has not seemed confident in either of the two defensive backs returning punts, despite it seeming like a natural move considering their kickoff returning chops. The Bengals likely had Erickson’s absence in mind when having Taylor in for a workout and he could be primed for a big role on special teams.
Over the course of his career, Taylor has averaged 9.6 yards per punt return on his 49 career returns. Compare this to Erickson, who averaged only 8.0 yards a return on 135 returns and you start to see why Taylor could be the new man for the job. Sure, Taylor has had a much smaller sample size, but the ability is clearly there.
Punt returner may not seem like an important position to some, but you can be sure that it is important to Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons. Field position can make or break an offensive possession and if the Bengals believe Taylor can get them that, then he will earn the job.