Could Williams fill vital role on ST?

DeAngelo Williams

First-round draft pick DeAngelo Williams is working on kickoff returns for the Panthers and the team hopes he can win that job, as well as be a key backup to starting running back DeShaun Foster. Williams only returned 13 kickoffs during his college career at Memphis, but they believe he has the potential to be a homerun threat on kickoffs, much like Steve Smith is on punts.

"As long as DeAngelo's role puts him in a position where he can (return kickoffs) and he's not overwhelmed with the offense it will be a good thing for us on special teams," said special teams coach Danny Crossman.

In his first season as special teams coach, Crossman did an outstanding job for the Panthers, who ranked among the league leaders in most categories and did not allow a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown in 2005. However, the Panthers struggled on kickoff returns, finishing 30th in the 32-team league.

Rod Smart, who has since been released, averaged just 21.2 yards per return while Jamal Robertson didn't do much better, averaging 21.4 yards per return.

"At times we blocked things well in the front and blocked things well in the wedge and didn't get things from our returner," Crossman said. "I thought for the most part we blocked things pretty well, but we have to get more out of the things we have. We have guys now who don't have a lot of experience doing it, but they've done it. There's a difference between being a returner and having returned. I mean I can throw a football, but I'm not a quarterback."

Robertson and second-round pick Richard Marshall are also working on kickoff returns.

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