In 2010, the Carolina Panthers had an average kick return of 21.9 yards. Finishing 19th in the NFL, 10th in the NFC, and dead last in the NFC South. However, in 2011 the Panthers finished 16th in the NFL, 8th in the NFC, and 2nd in the NFC South. It’s not a huge leap, but it’s a start. One reason for this jump is Kealoha Pilares.
Below are the 2011 kick return stats for two players.
Ret Yds Avg Lng TD 20+ 40+ FC FUM
Player 1 23 590 25.7 101T 1 15 2 0 1
Player 2 33 723 21.9 98T 1 15 2 0 0
Player 2 played in all sixteen 2011 regular season games, while Player 1 only played in twelve 2011 regular season games. I will reveal the names of these players after the jump.
Player 1 is Kealoha Pilares. Player 2 is Devin Hester. Am I saying that Pilares is the next Hester? No. What I am saying is that they’re pretty darn close.
Maybe Hester had an off year, or maybe not. In Hester’s career he has returned 20 or more kicks in one season, four times. His average kick return yardage for those 4 years is 22.9. Included in that average was his best year, his rookie year, with an average of 26.4. In that year, he returned 20 kicks for a total of 528 yards.
In Kealoha’s rookie season he returned 23 kicks for a total of 590 yards, with an average of 25.7. Sure Hester returns punts, and scored one more kick return td during his rookie season but he also fumbled the ball twice that year, Pilares only lost it once.
Could the Panthers have the next Devin Hester? Only time will tell, but I like what I’ve seen.
Coming from the Panthers player page on Pilares:
-Led the panthers and ranked 5th in the nfc with a 25.7-yard kick off return average.
-Set a team record with a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, bettering the previous long of 100 yards by Rod Smart versus New Orleans (10/5/03) and Michael Bates at Atlanta (10/31/99).
-Tied the team record for highest kickoff return average of 46.67 yards, previously accomplished by Rod Smart versus New Orleans (10/5/03).
-Collected eight special teams tackles
2011 Season Highlights:
Also coming from Pilares’ player page:
-Player of the week: Earned NFC special teams player of the week honors for efforts in week 11 at Detroit (11/20/11). Pilares returned three kickoffs for 140 yards and one touchdown.
I have yet to hear a good nickname for Pilares, but I propose ‘Aloha.’ In Hawaiian, Aloha means both hello and goodbye. ‘Hi’ as he’s coming towards defenders and ‘bye’ as he goes past them. I look forward to seeing ‘Aloha’ in action next season.