Asa Jackson A Difficult Decision For Ravens


One of the Ravens' harder decisions in determining the 53-man roster will be what to do with cornerback and special teams returner Asa Jackson.

Baltimore still needs a returner with Jacoby Jones gone, and Jackson is one of the top options.

But for a second straight preseason game, Jackson has flashed both brilliance and stumbles (this time literally).

Jackson nearly broke off a punt return touchdown, but tripped over his own feet with only the punter to beat. On his only other punt return, he fumbled for a second straight game – the ultimate no-no.

Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked how challenging it is for coaches to balance Jackson's obvious potential with his gaffes when making their roster decisions over the next couple days.

"It makes it difficult," Harbaugh said. "You can tell he's just a dangerous, dangerous returner. But you've got to be dangerous for them, not for us. He can do it."

Last Saturday against the Redskins, Jackson returned a kickoff 103 yards, but was caught from behind just a couple steps away from the end zone. He later chose to field a punt instead of fair catching it and paid the price of a massive hit that jarred the ball loose.

But the Ravens don't have a lot of other options at returner. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro is likely the top option, particularly on punts, but he's been injury prone. Veterans Steve Smith Sr. and Lardarius Webb are options, but they may be too valuable to risk injury on special teams.

On Thursday night, the Ravens gave undrafted rookie running back Terrence Magee first crack on kickoffs. He took his one opportunity 25 yards. Wide receiver Tom Nelson also returned one kick 26 yards. Neither stood out.

The Ravens gave Jackson the nod on punts despite his mistake last week. He looked to make the most of it when he broke through his blockers and had open field. Jackson put a move on punter Matt Bosher, but tripped and fell to the turf without being touched.

"I was trying to set the punter up, and honestly I just rolled my ankle trying to make a cut," Jackson said. "I haven't even looked at my phone yet. All my best friends in California have been clowning me, giving me a hard time about last week all the way up till today. I'm sure there will be more of that."

Jackson tried to laugh to dull the frustration. He felt like the 20-19 loss was on his shoulders because of the fumble and not finishing his other return with a touchdown.

"The guys out there are making the best blocks and we deserve to have someone back there that will score," Jackson said.

But worse than the stumble was the fumble. Jackson fielded the punt cleanly this time, but had the ball punched out of his arms as he tried to split two tacklers. The Falcons recovered.

"I did some good things in the return game and once again gave it right back. I was real disappointed in that," Jackson said. "Hopefully I'm getting it all out now in the preseason. That's why we call it the preseason and we'll be ready to go in Denver."

The question now is whether Jackson will be with the Ravens in Denver. The team has until Saturday at 4 p.m. to trim the roster from 75 to 53 players.

If Jackson, 25, doesn't make the team as a returner, he's competing with Quinton Pointer and Cassius Vaughn, who had a strong game defensively and on special teams coverage, for a possible sixth and final spot at cornerback.

"It's out of my hands now," the 2012 fifth-round pick said. "I've felt like I was knocking on the door for a long time, and I think it's my time to just be consistent all the time and kick the door down. It's that time for me.

"It's frustrating for me because I feel like I prepare myself to be in that position and some things end up happening. All I can do is keep preparing, doing everything I can, hopefully still be on this team and keep progressing as an NFL football player."

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