Bron­cos may have found punt re­turn weapon

Rookie Kalif Ray­mond runs back four kicks for 40 yards in his de­but.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Cameron Wolfe The Den­ver Post

jack­sonville, fla.» Kalif Ray­mond was ad­mit­tedly anx­ious and full of en­ergy lead­ing up to Sun­day’s game against Jack­sonville. It marked his first NFL game.

There was no chance that the diminu­tive rookie re­ceiver and re­turner would be eased into ac­tion.

His role, as the Bron­cos’ pri­mary punt re­turner re­plac­ing the strug­gling Jor­dan Nor­wood, was packed with pres­sure.

“Once I got hit the first time, it just felt like foot­ball, and I can do foot­ball,” Ray­mond said. “It went well, but I want to take one to the house.”

Ray­mond didn’t score a touch­down, but he did have the best day a Bron­cos punt re­turner had all sea­son, with four re­turns for 40 yards.

The high­lights were a 19-yard re­turn near the end of the first half. He was hit late out of bounds, which gave the Bron­cos an­other 15 yards. The field po­si­tion set up Den­ver for a short field goal be­fore half­time and a 10-3 lead. On his next punt re­turn, he ran through an arm tackle and gained 22 yards.

Ray­mond’s only neg­a­tive play came on his first punt re­turn, when he was un­sure whether he should field the punt, so he stayed away. The ball bounced an ad­di­tional 15 yards, cost­ing Den­ver field po­si­tion.

Ray­mond said he took the lesser of two evils on that re­turn, sac­ri­fic­ing field po­si­tion for a po­ten­tial turnover on a low punt that didn’t have much hang time.

“I’m en­cour­aged. I like his con­fi­dence back there. The kid is try­ing to make plays,” coach Gary Ku­biak said. “That one he didn’t catch that hurt us field po­si­tion-wise, that was very, very dif­fi­cult to get to.”

With a strug­gling of­fense, the Bron­cos’ de­fense needs some­body or some­thing to take pres­sure away so it doesn’t have to carry the team to ev­ery vic­tory.

“I want to show them I can af­fect the game and be a dif­fer­ence-maker. I don’t want to be the guy just back there to catch it,” Ray­mond said. “I want to be a dan­ger­ous guy back there. To­day was a good day, but I’m hun­gry for more.”

The Bron­cos’ Kalif Ray­mond, mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance in an NFL game, catches a punt against the Jaguars dur­ing the first quar­ter Sun­day at EverBank Field in Jack­sonville, Fla. John Leyba, The Den­ver Post

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