Mike McDaniel reveals who decided not to use Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on returns and why

PHOENIX — Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle often spoke about a willingness, and even at times a desire, to return punts last season.

Before last season, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel spoke about a willingness, and even perhaps a desire, to utilize Hill and Waddle in the return game.

But it never really happened.

Hill and Waddle are incredibly dynamic and fast and strike potential fear into opponents because of their track record of big plays and scores in both college and the NFL.

Yet during the regular season Hill had only 2 punt returns for -4 yards and Waddle had none.

Who made that decision? And why?

McDaniel finally explained it all, this week at the NFL's owners' meetings.

"This is a decision that I make with regard to the players and with (special teams coach) Danny (Crossman) and risk-reward for everything," McDaniel explained. "In this particular season, I probably would have expected them to return more. But then as the games were happening, there was honestly, the stuff that they were able to do offensively and how much of a important feature they were, that's the way it played out."

The Dolphins used Cedrick Wilson and Jevon Holland on punt returns and Raheem Mostert on kickoff returns.

But the Dolphins were tied for last in the NFL in punt return yards and 31st in kickoff return yards.

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This year, both roles figure to go to very capable free agent addition Braxton Berrios.

"You always want the threat to be there," McDaniel said of Hill/Waddle. "And it always will be there because those guys are competitors and can affect the game. But, you know, having a starting point in Braxton, I think is nice as well, where he's had so much success and then you know, whatever else we can come up with, Shoot, maybe we'll have three returners out there."

Crossman repeatedly declined to discuss why Hill and Waddle were not being used in the return game last season. Obviously the risk is a potential injury to a superstar talent.

McDaniel explained there was additional strategy involved, too.

"Sometimes it was that I wanted (the opponent) to put it in bounds and give our team a shot," McDaniel said. "And sometimes teams don't put it in bounds when they're back there."

And having Hill and Waddle fresh for offensive workload was key.

"I think for my tastes, probably you'd like a little more democracy in how much you are able to spread the ball around," McDaniel said. "There were times that they would have had the opportunity, but I called them off because it was like, 'We need them fresh for this. This first-down play.'"

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) takes the field before the start of the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Jan. 8, 2023.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) takes the field before the start of the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Jan. 8, 2023.

Berrios is fired up about the opportunity to return for the Dolphins.

"I think that you know, I've been one of the best in the league at it and you know, obviously want to get back to that to that top spot across the board at it," Berrios said. "I had a lot of pride in it because it truly is a third of the game. And they can swing a game just like any other, you know, interception or touchdown."

Joe Schad is a journalist covering the Miami Dolphins and the NFL at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at jschad@pbpost.com and follow him on Instagram and Twitter @schadjoe. Sign up for Joe's free weekly Dolphins Pulse Newsletter. Help support our work by subscribing today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle didn't return Dolphins punts. Why?