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Texans' Kick Returner Rewards Culley's Rebuilding

Desmond King impressed on special teams, primarily on punt return.

When a team is struggling, it's about finding the little things to hold on to hope. Maybe a new-found success in special teams is what Houston can look to? 

Desmond King took over for All-Pro return man Andre Roberts on return duties in Sunday's 31-5 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Simply put, he was better than the former Buffalo Bills standout. 

King returned four punts and tallied 51 total yards. He averaged 12.8 yards per return and had a long of 20. 

“Desmond gave us some juice in our return game,” Texans coach David Culley said. “We knew he had that in him. When Andre was here, that’s what he was here for. We gave him an opportunity to do that, and we weren’t getting the production, so it was Desmond’s turn, and he did a good job. He gave us some positive plays.”

Roberts was released last Tuesday following a sluggish start to the season. In 2020 the Bills, he averaged 30 yards per kickoff return and 9.9 yards per punt return. 

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The 33-year-old averaged 4.1 yards on punt returns, and his longest was 11. He averaged 21.4 on kickoff returns, with a long of 38. He also had a pair of fumbles in Weeks 2 and 3 against the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers, respectively. 

King was the secondary return man, but came with experience. He too received All-Pro honors in 2018 following his success as a returner with the Los Angeles Chargers. That year, King averaged 23.7 yards per kickoff return and 13.8 yards per kickoff. 

The Texans needed some stability on special teams. King likely will manage Roberts' role on punt returns, while fellow cornerback Tremon Smith is expected to see an expanded role as a kickoff returner. 

Houston returns home next week to face the L.A. Rams before taking on the one-win Miami Dolphins before its bye week.