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Asa Jackson Will Get Shot At Punt Returner


Cornerback Asa Jackson scored a punt return touchdown during last year's preseason, but didn't even get to celebrate it.

He thought his team was penalized, which would have negated the play, so Jackson sulked to the sideline. Turns out, the penalty was on the Falcons and the touchdown stood.

This year, Jackson's looking to do it again. But this time he plans to live it up.

"I'll have a little something new if I can get in the end zone this year," Jackson said with a smile. "That's the plan."

While the Ravens re-signed 2012 Pro Bowl returner Jacoby Jones this offseason, they are toying with the idea of replacing him at punt returner. They want to give Jackson a shot.

"We want to see Asa Jackson back there a lot, because he's had some opportunities in preseasons past in punt returns, and he's done well with it," Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said.

"We haven't seen him back there in regular season yet, so we need to find out exactly if he's ready and able to take over that duty – which would take a little load off of Jacoby perhaps. Maybe [he'll] just be a backup. We have to find out."

As a rookie in 2012, Jackson returned a punt 85 weaving yards for a touchdown in the preseason. It looked like a play off the "Madden" video game. Jackson made at least half of the Detroit Lions miss with a tackle. It was called back, however, by a holding penalty.

Jackson made it official last year with a 78-yard return for a touchdown. On that one, he showed less tackle-breaking agility and more straight speed, beating the Atlanta Falcons cover team to the edge.

"I'm pretty quick, pretty fast in the open field, and I have good vision in terms of cutting the ball back and finding little holes that I can try to make into big gains," Jackson said.

But Jackson has yet to get the nod during the regular season. It's in part because he's been suspended for 12 games over the past two years. Jackson has seen action in just seven games so far.

That seems highly likely to change this year. As of now, Jackson is in line to earn a position amidst the Ravens defense as either a No. 3 or No. 4 cornerback. That would make him active on game days, and give him a better chance of also contributing on special teams.

"I just want to help the team," Jackson said. "Special teams, especially punt return, has always been a part of my game and a part of the game that I really enjoy. Hopefully in the preseason I can show them they can give Jacoby more of a rest on the punt returns and I can do it."

Jones averaged 12.5 yards per punt return, ranking fifth in the league. He had six returns over 20 yards and a long of 37 yards.

Jones has been more impressive as a kick returner than on punts, however. He averaged 28.8 yards per return, ranking fourth in the league. Jones had one touchdown and perhaps could have had another had Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin not stepped onto the field.

If the Ravens didn't use Jones on punt returns, it could give him more energy for his offensive duties and keep him out of harm's way on special teams. Jones was injured trying to fair catch a punt in Week 1 last year, knocking him out for four games.

Baltimore is also giving rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro a long look at returner, along with wide receiver Deonte Thompson and running backs Justin Forsett and Fitzgerald Toussaint.

"The line is long at this point in time," Rosburg said. "We have Jacoby, obviously; he's been a proven returner for us both in the kicks and the punts – so he'll be in the front of the line to start with."

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