Eisenberg: Webb At Returner Worth Considering


Some thoughts about this week's mandatory minicamp:

My favorite moment was when Lardarius Webb, wearing a mischievous grin, went rogue at the interview podium and openly campaigned for the punt returner's job. He knew the politically correct move was to say the decision is up to the coaches, and Webb did say that. But he also admitted, "I want it. I would love to, man." In fact, he said it about four times.

The reasons not to let him return punts are obvious. When healthy, Webb is a vital member of the defense, a starting cornerback and effective pass defender. But injuries have compromised his availability and effectiveness at times recently, and returning punts increases the chances of his getting hurt again.

Even with that in mind, though, I think it's an idea worth considering. Webb was a terrific punt returner when the Ravens let him do it in 2010 and 2011. Darting, fast and sure-handed, he ranked among the league leaders, ran one back for a touchdown, and had another huge return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty in a playoff game in Pittsburgh.

He's potentially a big-play guy in that role, much as Jacoby Jones was. Yes, it's important to keep him healthy, but I like the risk/reward calculation here. Webb, 29, is a veteran, smart enough to take care of himself. And he's hungry enough to go off script and plead for a shot, which is what I really like. Webb's hunger is what has enabled him to thrive in pro football despite his small stature.

I'm guessing the Ravens will use several punt returners in 2015, but they could benefit from including Webb in the rotation.

Let's be clear: When he met with reporters this week, Terrell Suggs didn't say 2015 would be his last season with the Ravens.

But Suggs, 32, did admit – for the first time – that he's now taking it one year at a time as he enters his 13th season as a pro.

"At the end of the year, we'll talk," he said.

It was a different Suggs from the swaggering quote-machine who has enlivened interview sessions for years. This Suggs was humble, almost soft-spoken.  I have no idea how long he'll play, but my suggestion is to enjoy having him around while he's here, because it sounds like his internal clock is ticking.

If the Ravens gave out a Most Valuable Player award at their mandatory minicamp, Jeremy Butler would have won it.

The second-year wide receiver earned a rare Triple Crown of kudos after the last practice Thursday, drawing praise from John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Bobby Engram, his head coach, quarterback and position coach.

After what Engram called his "unbelievable OTA and minicamp," Butler has officially joined what figures to be a keen competition for receiver jobs. A 2014 undrafted free agent from Tennessee-Martin, he might have to beat out a draft pick such as Michael Campanaro or Darren Waller to make the final roster, but stranger things have happened.

Butler is big, strong and fast, and if he continues to make plays like he did this week, he's going to force the Ravens into an extremely difficult decision.


Breshad Perriman still has a lot of hurdles to clear before he's a productive pro, but his maturity was impressive this week.

Perriman, 21, came to Baltimore with a reputation for dropping too many balls, and he dropped several on the first day of minicamp, prompting a round of questions from reporters.  But he wasn't defensive or combative. He admitted he needed to do better, then did just that over the last two days, catching a ton of balls.

It was a mature response, especially for someone so young.

In the midst of telling reporters how similar Marc Trestman's offense is to that of former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Flacco outlined one key difference.

"We're trying to do some new things so that when teams come after us, we can hurt them a little bit more," Flacco said.

It was just a passing comment, but pretty big news, actually. Although the Ravens' offense set franchise records for points and yards under Kubiak in 2014, it did struggle at times against heavy-pressure defenses. Remember Houston?

Most fans were sad to see Kubiak go, but they'll love Trestman if he can make opponents pay for putting pressure on Flacco.

Harbaugh's description of young defensive end Steven Means certainly was original: "Young, big, gangly, crazy, almost out of control player sometimes."

It was said as praise. Means, Tampa Bay's 2013 fifth-round pick, is another young player to watch.

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