I know that everyone is up in arms about Reed still being on the roster, but I'm going to present a case for him as our kick returner. A lot of this information was posted in the comments on the LaVon Brazill article, but I feel like it warrants a read by more people.
I personally feel that too many people are overreacting when it comes to Reed. I think the biggest reason for this was the broadcast team of Burkhardt and Lynch. One of the two ( I believe Lynch), repeatedly skewered Reed for taking the ball out of the end zone and then failing to get to the 20 yard line. They even suggested that he was close to costing them valuable points and put it near the same level of error as the blocked punt. In my mind, this is completely ridiculous. To even suggest that it those returns were a grievous error, much less near the level of the blocked punt, is being vastly over critical.
Here are his returns from the Seahawks game, and keep in mind, Seattle is a fantastic Special Teams team (#4 by FO numbers):
-David Reed returns from the -8 to the 18 for 26 yards
-David Reed returned from the -9 to the 17 for 26 yards
-David Reed returned from the -8 to the 19 for 27 yards
-David Reed returned from the -4 to the 24 for 28 yards (holding penalty enforced)
Think about the numbers for a moment. His worst return of the day only got them to the 17 yard line. If he would have taken a knee, the Colts would have had the ball on the 20! That is three yards that his error cost us. Now, does anyone actually think that those three yards are significant? Having to drive 83 yards as opposed to 80 yards is not going to significantly affect the chances of a drive's success. The expected points are very similar between the 17 and the 23, but really start to go up beyond that point. Given that there is also a good chance that the kick return will bring the ball out further than the 20, I believe that it is well worth the risk of starting just short of the 20 yard line.
I thought this, but I wanted to make sure, so after some research, I found this great article by The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, called "To Kneel or Not to Kneel"
In the article, the author initially agrees with the feeling of most fans and John Lynch, don't run the ball out if you don't know you're going to get to the 20. However, the research proved that it is still worth it to return the ball in a normal situation:
"It turns out that NFL special teams units are not being so irrational after all. On all long kickoffs (defined as any kick fielded by a returner inside his own ten-yard line), the average starting field position of the receiving team is at their own 23.5-yard line. Admittedly, this doesn’t offer a comprehensive picture of the question, since I’m most interested in just kicks fielded deep in the end zone, so I broke the data down further. Even on kicks fielded five yards deep in the end zone or further back, the average kick return yields better starting field position (a team’s own 22.5-yard line) than simply taking the touchback and heading to the 20. ... The verdict seems to be that, even with the new kickoff rules, a returner is usually better off bringing the ball out than settling for a kneeldown in the end zone.
So it appears it is worth it to return the kick, even if you do end up just short of the 20 yard line. Now that we know that, let's examine David Reed's career numbers:
2010: 21 KRs, 29.3 YPKR, 1 TD, 2 KRs of 40+ yards. #12 overall by YPKR, #2 overall if you set a 5 KR minimum.
2011: 18 KRs, 29.7 YPKR, 0 TDs, 3 KRs of 40+ yards. #8 overall by YPKR, #6 overall if you set a 5 KR minimum.
2013: 6 KRs, 25.3 YPKR, 0 TDs, 0 KRs of 40+ yards. #20 overall by YPKR, # 11 overall if you set a 5 KR minimum.
Looking at his numbers, it's clear that he is a pretty good kick returner. Even more than that though, at least he is willing to attempt a return. I had to look it up to be sure, and I wasn't even sure that I believed it, but the Colts only returned one kick through the first three games. Kerwynn Williams returned a kick to the 19 yard line against Miami, and that is our only kick return in the first three games. I repeat, the Colts only returned 1 out of 10 kicks in three weeks.
That is just giving up. My favorite sports rule of thumb is this: If the other team is hoping that you will do something, you should usually do the opposite. When Seattle had a 4th and 1 around midfield, weren't we all hoping that they would punt the ball? They CLEARLY should have gone for it. When Pat McAfee kicks off, aren't we always hoping for a touchback? That's because we know a team has a good shot of getting a long return. Now, when teams kick off to the Colts, aren't we giving them exactly what they want when he don't even attempt a return?
Given all of this information, I hope that he stays on the team and keep returning these kicks. At least he is trying to keep the other teams honest, and sooner or later, one of these is going to turn into a long return.