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Texans New Return Man Tremon Smith: ‘Fast & Physical’

Texans’ Tremon Smith confident in kick return skills

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans’ return game is in flux after cutting former Pro Bowl return specialist Andre Roberts.

Texans cornerbacks Desmond King and Tremon Smith are being called upon to fill the void created by Roberts’ release and subsequently joining the Los Angeles Chargers, according to a league source not authorized to speak publicly.

“I would say aggressive, just fast and physical,” Smith said of his return style. “ I try to finish every run falling forward and try to just get the most yards I can to help set up the offense in any way I can.”

Smith is primarily a kickoff returner who has averaged 25.4 yards per kickoff return on 97 career kickoffs with just four career punt returns.

King, a former Pro Bowl selection, has returned two punts for touchdowns and has an 8.9 punt return average and a 22.0 kickoff return average.

Another option is nickel back Tavierre Thomas.

Both players had their moments during the preseason when Roberts was dealing with a knee injury that led to a slow start and his eventual departure from the Texans.

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“Yeah, I feel like we showed a few glimpses this preseason with the returns,” Smith said of him and King working in tandem. “I know he had a couple big returns, bigger than mine, of course. I’m working on it. But yeah, I feel like he’s a good returner. Whoever’s number coach (David Culley) calls, when it comes Sunday, we’ll be ready. No matter who’s on this roster, we’ll be ready for sure.”

Roberts was averaging 4.1 yards per punt return and 21.4 yards per kickoff return this season, and the drop in productivity, not all of it attributable to him, led to his departure from the Texans, according to Culley.

“I think that the case with Andre is for the fact that basically, we weren’t getting the production there that we felt like we needed to get there at that point,” Culley said. “It wasn’t just him, but we weren’t getting the production there at all. I know during preseason we had some guys that we also used at that situation, Desmond and Tavierre, those guys. We just felt like at this point, because the production hadn’t been there, that we need to go ahead and see and make a move, and it allowed us to make that move to do that.”

Roberts, 33, is a former Arizona Cardinals third-round draft pick from The Citadel who has averaged 9.0 yards per punt return for his career prior to this season with three touchdowns and 25.8 yards per kickoff return with two scores.

He averaged 30 yards per kickoff return and 9.9 yards per punt return last season for the Buffalo Bills. Roberts has caught 261 career passes for 3,044 yards and 15 touchdowns in 163 games with the Cardinals, Washington, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Jets and Bills.

“Even when Andre was here, I was very confident in my return skills,” Smith said. “ I always knew I could do it. I started off in the league doing it in 2018, so that’s just something I stayed confident in doing. I actually learned a lot from Andre, as to be a professional, how to take care of yourself, take care of your body, the little things. It was a pleasure having Dre here. It’s part of the business in the NFL, you never know with this business. So, I thank Andre for everything I learned from him.”

King and Smith will get their first opportunities to show what they can contribute in the return game this week when they head to the 6-0 Cardinals.