|Cortland Finnegan attempts to replace suspended Adam 'Pacman' Jones at punt returner|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 05 August 2007 08:47|
The Tennessee Titans need someone to replace Adam ``Pacman'' Jones while he sits out his suspension from the NFL this season. It's a tall task because Jones led the NFL in punt return average last season and returned three for touchdowns. He also returned kickoffs.
Finnegan, heading into his second NFL season, looks like the first one up for the task on punt returns.
``The closest to being able to do that is Cortland because he's got the most quickness and he's real explosive,'' special teams coach Alan Lowry said. ``He's strong for his size, a lot like Pac was. We'll give him the first shot and see what happens.''
Receivers Brandon Jones and rookie Chris Davis, who returned punts in college at Florida State, also are candidates for the job.
Whether they can provide that extra boost Jones threatened every time remains to be seen.
Jones edged out Devin Hester of Chicago to lead the league with a 12.9-yard average boosted by an 81-yard return in the regular season finale.
That average was fifth best in team history, and Jones was the first player from this franchise to lead the league in that category since Billy ``White Shoes'' Johnson in 1977. Jones also tied Johnson's team record (1975) by returning three punts for TDs, which tied Hester for most in the NFL in 2006.
His best play came in Philadelphia with a 90-yarder.
``Pac just ran really well,'' Lowry said. ``He made guys miss. The Philadelphia game he made six guys miss in the size of a phone booth. That's the type of thing we really have to emphasize is blocking better. That's one of the things we're going to emphasize.''
The only other player on this team who returned a punt last season was Bobby Wade, who handled six with three of those fair catches. Wade left in free agency for Minnesota in March.
The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Finnegan returned five punts as a rookie in preseason a year ago, averaging 12.6 yards per return. His 41-yarder was the team's longest in preseason.
``It's big shoes to fill. I definitely look forward to helping the team any way I can,'' Finnegan said.
Drafted out of Samford in 2006, Finnegan also is fast. He was timed before the draft running a 4.33-second, 40-yard dash. He holds the NCAA Division I-AA career record with a 28.3 kickoff return average and set a Samford record with 263 yards off kickoff returns in a single game in 2002.
He returned 70 for 1,980 yards with three touchdowns, and he returned 14 punts for 212 yards and a touchdown (15.1) average.
``Any chance you get to start anywhere on the field is definitely a blessing and an opportunity, and I'm going to make the most of it,'' Finnegan said.