Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell talks with players as they stretch during NFL training camp in Anderson, Ind., Monday, Aug. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Updated: Friday, 13 Aug 2010, 8:06 AM EDT
Published : Friday, 13 Aug 2010, 8:05 AM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Brandon James believes he could be a difference maker for the Indianapolis Colts this season.
The rookie free agent from Florida will return punts on Sunday in the preseason opener against San Francisco. It's an area in which James feels the Colts could use a boost.
"I was told that a return man was definitely needed here," the 5-foot-7 reserve receiver said. "Me following football over the years, watching the Colts, that's one thing they're missing. If they had better field position, their scoring percentage would be a lot better. That's what I'll try to bring."
James also is listed as the backup on kickoff returns. He holds four Southeastern Conference and 11 school records for kickoff and punt returns. Last season, he averaged 26.1 yards on kickoff returns and 7.4 yards on punt returns. He had four punt returns for touchdowns as a Gator.
Sam Giguere tops the depth chart for kickoff returns. He returned five kickoffs for 122 yards last season. Coach Jim Caldwell said the 5-foot-11, 215-pound reserve receiver blends speed with power.
"Sam is big, strong, fast," he said. "He's got girth to him, he's got power, he's got speed. We've seen him actually do it."
Caldwell said Anthony Gonzalez is likely to return some kicks in the preseason, but he's more interested in seeing the young players in action on Sunday.
Caldwell said finding steady kick returners is one of the team's most pressing needs. The Colts ranked 18th in the league in kickoff returns last season (22.2 yards per return) and 28th in punt returns (5.2). Last year's top returners, Chad Simpson and T.J. Rushing, are no longer with the team, leaving the return game as one of the only areas where jobs are up for grabs. Every defensive starter and all but one on offense returns.
"I think it's key for us," he said. "We need to get a couple guys who can do it for us. We'll give a couple guys an opportunity to see what they can do. It's going to be a great competition."
James, who is a reserve wide receiver, realizes his best shot to make the team is as a return man. The receiving corps is loaded, with Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Gonzalez and rookie Blair White ahead of him on the depth chart.
James realizes how important Sunday's game is, but he's trying to downplay it.
"With me coming in, I'm just taking it as a regular game," he said. "I don't look at it as a preseason game. I'm going into it real motivated. Trying to just keep my emotions down a little bit, don't let them get the best of me."
Caldwell likes what he has seen so far.
"He's learning," he said. "Sunday's certainly going to be a great opportunity for him. He's got good hands, pretty consistent hands, and he's got some quickness. We'll see what happens in live action."
Caldwell suspects James' learning curve will accelerate on Sunday.
"Every once in a while, they (young players) press a little bit," he said. "They certainly are going to get a feel for the speed in this league. They have not witnessed that yet. That will give them a real good view of exactly how difficult it is to be good in that particular area."