Last offseason, the Broncos signed undrafted rookie Quincy McDuffie to try out for the team as a receiver and return specialist. He had been named a Sports Illustrated All-American as a kick returner, which put him up against returner/receiver Trindon Holliday in a battle of the bantams.
In the end, both the contest and the position went to Holliday, and thankfully so: through five weeks, he already has touchdowns on both punt and kick returns. He’s consistently exciting as a returner and often extends his returns - getting back to the the 35 is a short return for him.
When he does bring it out, he’s averaging 37.7 yards, on six returns; the former NCAA track champion has an amazing four touchdowns among his last 26 returns.
Holliday is as fast as they come, but he doesn't always get enough credit for just how well he sets up his returns. It’s not just his speed and smaller stature - he’s extremely smart about how he approaches the return game and has excellent field vision. On his 105-yard kickoff return against Philadelphia in Week 4, he started out running just wide of the right hashmarks:
When Holliday makes his cut to the left side at the four-yard-line, he leaves all but two Eagles out of position. In the next image, picture a line drawn between Holliday (11) and the Eagles' Casey Matthews (50) - six Eagles are at the hashmarks or further below it on the image, while another two are between the hashmarks but angled toward the side Holliday just vacated. Omar Bolden (31) is about to lay an essential block to free Holliday, as is Malik Jackson (97).
Bolden and Jackson lay their clean blocks on the remaining Eagles and now the kicker, Alex Henery (6) is all that remains between Holliday and pay dirt. Trindon flies past him without pausing, and Henery is left grasping at air.
The three Broncos escorting him weren’t going to let anyone else get close enough to matter:
I recall having watched the Broncos kick to Devin Hester in Chicago back in 2007 and nearly frothed at the mouth when Todd Sauerbrun managed to punt the ball righ to Hester, after Mike Shanahan had allegedly told him not to. It probably cost the Broncos the game that day.
With Holliday’s speed, vision, dexterity, and balance, he’s bringing the same fate to a lot of the Broncos’ opponents as Hester had done earlier.
It almost doesn’t matter where the ball is kicked - if it’s in bounds, it’s Trindon’s. His lateral movement is so quick that he can reach nearly anything, side to side. He will bring punts and kicks out from all but the deepest corners of the end zone.
His vision, ability to identify seams, and his speed to the gaps seem almost impossible to stop.