The Ravens punt and kickoff return duties have been a revolving carousel since the team reported to training camp weeks ago.
After two preseason games, the picture, for now, seems to be a bit clearer, but the leader’s title could be renamed “returner by default.”
Following practice on Tuesday, Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg announced that Asa Jackson will get the first reps against Washington on Saturday night in both kick and punt returns.
In an open competition with limited game time opportunities, Jackson, who has struggled for much of training camp at the cornerback position, has provided the best results thus far. With Michael Campanaro again nursing whats been described as a “soft tissue” injury and undrafted rookie DeAndre Carter‘s blunders on both kick return attempts, it appears as if it’s Jackson’s job to lose.
“I wish we had more kickoff return opportunities to evaluate, but teams are choosing to kick the ball out of the end zone or kick it as far as they can, and we haven’t really had many chances,” said Rosburg. “We’ll see what happens this week, but it’s a work in progress. We’re working a lot of different guys in practice, and we have to come to some decisions soon, because it’s going to happen quickly.
“This week, Asa [Jackson] is going to start off for us on punt return, and he’s going to start off for us on kick return, and then we’re going to go from there.”
In two preseason contests, Jackson has fielded just two punts, for 17 total yards, while handling two kickoff returns for 41 yards against the Eagles. His longest return went for just 23 yards.
While the team hasn’t exactly remained mum on a few vets returning punts this season, the decision certainly would be a risky one. Two key players who took their share of reps throughout training camp, Steve Smith Sr. and Lardarius Webb, certainly have experience. Sending them back to return kicks, however, wouldn’t exactly be ideal.
Webb can’t stay healthy as it is, why risk him even more? And Smith Sr. is the only receiver for the Ravens that isn’t still wet behind the ears.
As Rosburg pointed out, the Ravens will need to make a decision soon as to who will replace Jacoby Jones, who dazzled in the return game during his tenure in Baltimore. Perhaps, the player isn’t even on the roster yet. The front office brass will keep a close eye on upcoming cuts from around the league.
For now though, all eyes will be on Jackson to provide a spark in the return game, otherwise he could be released for a replacement.
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