There were questions. And then there were more questions. That's what losses like this do to us. We ask more and more questions. My question? Why did we replace Bernard Scott with Andre Caldwell on kickoff returns. Let me clarify something right immediately. I really like Caldwell. I think he has a bright future and he's a large part why the Bengals achieved 7-2, earning themselves the nickname, Cardiac Cats. Furthermore, of all of our receivers, I believe he has the most upside. However, as a kickoff returner, he leaves a lot to be desired.
Through 28 kickoff returns, Caldwell is averaging 18.7 yards-per-return with a long of 39 yards. He's fumbled twice and recorded ten 20-yard returns. Then there's Bernard Scott. The rookie running back has recorded eight kickoff returns, seven of which he's returned 20 yards or more, and a 34.5 yard-per-return average. Oh, and he's got a 96-yard touchdown return against the Steelers; a team that just set a new NFL record allowing a touchdown return in eight straight games.
Scott had just started becoming the primary return man against the Steelers last week and even returned a 15-yard kickoff early against Oakland. However, with 59 seconds left in the second quarter, Scott gave way back to Caldwell, who had a 22-yard return and a lost fumble with :33 seconds left in the game. When Scott finally reappeared on kickoff return with 15 seconds left in the game and the Bengals trailing 20-17, the Raiders squibbed it to Quan Cosby, who returned it to Cincinnati's 37-yard line.
Originally, it was expected that Scott had, at the very worst, an injury when Caldwell started returning kicks to close the first half. Or maybe the Bengals were wanting to give him a breather while becoming the workhorse for Sunday. The former, and perhaps some of the latter, became true. Scott had been suffering leg cramps, which put Caldwell back to return kicks.
This isn't a slam on either player. I think both are the future of this team and have proven to be great talents. It just is what it is. Next week, Scott should be back to returning kicks while being the guy that gives Cedric Benson a rest against the Cleveland Browns. And if the Bengals don't punish the Browns after that loss to Oakland...