Bringing Back Dri Archer

After an incredible showing by the Steelers on Sunday Night Football, one name has become an afterthought in the sea of positive things which happened in the game: Jacoby Jones.

Jones was claimed off waivers on November 5, 2015 after being released by the San Diego Chargers a week earlier. Jones was known as a dynamic kick and punt returner, and had his most famous clash with the Steelers on a Thanksgiving night game where Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, standing too close the field, nearly tripped, and subsequently slowed down Jones on a would be touchdown run.

It was that style of play that forced the Steelers hand to waive, then current return specialist, Dri Archer. Archer was released the same day to make room for Jones, but there is now a feeling that the team made an error in doing so.

Jones fumbled the opening kickoff on Sunday night, and after his second fumbled return in the first half of that game, he was benched in favor of Antonio Brown. As everyone knows, Brown, an electric returner in his own right, took one to the house later that game. But the idea of allowing Brown to field punts, in the wake of a wave of injuries throughout the club, was the reason for signing Jacoby Jones, as he could field both kicks and punts, and allow AB to sit on the sideline, where he would presumably be at less risk to get injured.

It appears that Jones’ days may be numbered, as his performance has been anything but the dynamic play he was once known for. This has prompted calls to possibly bring back Archer, the 97th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Jones failed to improve on Archer’s 25.3 kick return average, with almost a yard less per return (24.4 yards average.)

Jones’ punt return average is also bad: with the Steelers he’s averaged 3.2 yards per return, with a long of 14. This poor effort is actually better than his negative average of -0.8 with San Diego this season.

In other words, Jones is trending down.

This may prompt the team to look back at their former 3rd round investment, who is currently a homeless player in the NFL. While that may seem like a better option than Jones, it’s also a marginal difference, as long as Jones can hold onto the ball in future outings. The team already knows who Dri Archer is as a player, and it’s unlikely they would revisit him as an option after passing on him once before.

A more likely scenario could be waiving Jones to promote another player from the practice squad, at a position of need (ie. for depth.) This would place Jordan Todman as the lone kick returner and would give Antonio Brown his punt return duties back. While the risk is greater with Brown returning punts, the reward is also greater: Brown has now returned 1 kickoff and 4 punts for touchdowns in his career.

Given that Jacoby Jones can’t even hold onto the ball, let alone gain any yards on returns, he may have seen his last days in a black and gold jersey, given the alternatives available while the Steelers attempt to make a run for the postseason.


Since publishing this article, the team has come out and stated that Antonio Brown will now return punts with Markus Wheaton replacing Jones on kickoff duties. Wheaton returned 20 kicks for 494 yards during the 2014 season.

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