Nothing used to get under my skin more while watching the Ravens than having a veteran starter on the field returning kicks.
Many times I would sit there and scratch my head wondering why would John Harbaugh, a special teams guru and Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg would trot Lardarius Webb or Ed Reed out to handle the return duties. It just increased the chances of a key player being injured.
Considered one of the most dangerous jobs on a football field, a kick returner is a valuable asset on any team. The
Ravens have been fortunate for the most part over the last few years to have one player handle both kick and punt returns in Jacoby Jones. However, as the Ravens march toward the 2015 season, Rosburg’s unit enters new territory.
With roster spots limited, the days of having one spot devoted to the return game are over, which Rosburg spoke about following practice on Monday.
“You’d like to see a return specialist do both, and also contribute on offense or defense,” said Rosburg. “My personal
philosophy is I don’t want just a return specialist. That’s not enough value to the roster. It doesn’t help the team
“Whatever way we work out with the roster – whether it is one guy doing one and playing on offense and another guy doing another and playing on defense – as long as they are doing everything they can in a multiple number of ways to help our team, then I’ll be just fine with it.”
We may, however, be going back to the days of veteran starters returning kicks. Rosburg doesn’t rule out that possibility.
They have both done it and both done it successfully,” remarked Rosburg when asked about Lardarius Webb and Steve Smith Sr. possibly returning kicks. “And when you are trying to win games, you’ll do whatever it takes to win games.”
“Having said that, when you’ve got a starting corner and a starting wide receiver, you’d rather not have those guys do it on an every down basis, because you’ve got to divvy up the work. We need a guy to come through for us so that doesn’t happen. That’s my view.”
With OTAs ongoing, the coaching staff has been keeping a watchful eye on who could see an increased number of reps as a returner as we draw closer and closer to training camp.
Cornerback Asa Jackson and undrafted rookie wide receiver DeAndre Carter have seen action for portions of return drills during the team’s voluntary OTAs.
“What we do, always in preseason, is everybody is getting reps, and we are doing that right now,” said Rosburg about the Ravens strategy of selecting a returner. “Fitzgerald Toussaint is getting reps. Steve Smith [Sr.] is back there catching balls. Lardarius Webb will be back there catching balls.”
Losing reps is second year receiver Michael Campanaro, who has struggled to stay healthy since being selected in the 7th round of the 2014 draft. If Camp can overcome his injuries, he likely becomes the leading candiate for both return jobs.
But that is a big if.
While most roster spots are accounted for, the returner battle will certainly be one to keep track of throughout the rest of the summer.
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