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Don’t expect WR Phillip Dorsett to work as the Patriots’ punt returner anytime soon

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It appears as if New England does not see Dorsett as a returnman.

Arkansas State v Miami Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have arguably the deepest roster in the NFL. The team has talent on offense, talent on defense and talent special teams. However, it is the latter group that features what is quite possibly the lightest position on the entire team: punt returner.

Entering the preseason, Cyrus Jones, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman were seen as the consensus top three punt return options on the roster. However, Jones and Edelman tore their ACLs in back-to-back weeks during the preseason, leaving Amendola as the last man standing – until the fourth quarter of New England’s opening game against the Kansas City Chiefs that is.

The 31-year old, who was the Patriots’ leading receiver against Kansas City, also served as the team’s punt returner. And it was one of those plays during which he sustained a concussion that has kept him out of practice for the entire week and led to his early deactivation for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. This, in turn, has created yet another void in the return game.

The presumed next men up are safety Patrick Chung and wide receiver Chris Hogan. There is another name, though, that has been viewed as a potential candidate to return punts: Phillip Dorsett, who the Patriots acquired via trade on roster cutdown day. The former Indianapolis Colts first round draft pick has the athletic skill set and some past experience – he returned punts in college – to work as a returnman.

According to himself, however (via the Boston Herald’s Adam Kurkjian), New England’s coaching staff has not yet used him in this role. Of course, a lot can change over the course of the season and once Dorsett has become more comfortable in the team's system. He therefore still appears to be an option in the kicking game due to the reasons above – just not as things apparently stand right now.

It seems as if the team could go another route and use one of its practice squad members at punt returner instead: Wide receiver Demarcus Ayers, to be specific. Ayers, a 2016 seventh round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, has returned 28 punts for 290 yards and a touchdown during his college career. He also added 1,613 yards and a score on 71 kickoff returns.

During his 2015 senior campaign, he was named to the All-AAC's first team as a kickoff returner and furthermore ran back two punts for 23 yards during the Steelers' preseason. So while Phillip Dorsett is apparently being used for offensive purposes only, do not be surprised if the team makes a transaction before tomorrow's game to promote a Ayers to the active roster to offer depth at two positions currently lacking it – just like Dorsett was believed to when he joined the Patriots.

There is obviously still time for that to materialize but as of today, the former first round draft pick will likely not be New England's punt returner of the future – at least not of the immediate one. Then again, considering what happened to Danny Amendola on a punt return and putting Julian Edelman's and Malcolm Mitchell's injury into account, maybe this is the best way to move forward to not risk losing any more wideouts.