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Jerry Rosburg: We Need To Fix Special Teams Miscues


John Harbaugh's frustration with his special teams unit was palpable after Sunday's loss to the Redskins.

The Ravens allowed the Redskins to rip off an 85-yard punt return touchdown, which swayed the momentum of the game after Baltimore marched down the field for an early touchdown. It was the second week in a row a long return had cost the Ravens.

Harbaugh had a stern message for his young special teamers.

"Now we have special teams players who are starting on defense and the young guys aren't going to step up and play special teams, I guess," Harbaugh said after the 16-10 defeat. "That has to change. We're not having it. That's what gave them the spark to get back in the game, in my mind. We let them back in the game with a punt return for a touchdown. It's not what we do. That's not winning football."

The gaffes are uncharacteristic for the Ravens, who have been one of the league's best special teams units since Harbaugh arrived in 2008. His background was as a special teams coach, and Baltimore's Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg is considered one of the best in the business.

Baltimore takes pride in in special teams play, but the group currently ranks near the bottom of the league in a number of categories through the first five games.

"We're not used to this happening to us and our players know that," Rosburg said. "It's my job to get us back up to that standard."

The Ravens rank 29th in the league in average yards allowed per punt return (18.9). That number is certainly skewed by last week's 85-yard return, which is tied for the longest return in the NFL, but the Ravens have also allowed a league-high five punt returns longer than 20 yards.  

They also rank 25th in the league in opponent starting field position after a kickoff (25.5 yard line).

"It's a matter of fundamental football," Rosburg said. "We broke down in a couple of different areas in each phase and it hurt us. There's times where you break down in the same way and it doesn't hurt you because the ball is not in the same place or the returns not the same. We've had a repeat of errors that have hurt us. We need to fix it."

The Ravens have shown a willingness to shake up the special teams lineup if they aren't happy with how players are performing. Rookies Kamalei Correa and Chris Moore were both healthy scratches last week, and the Ravens gave tight ends Darren Waller and Daniel Brown opportunities to play special teams. Baltimore cut veteran special teams Chris Carter on Wednesday.

In addition to the problems in coverage, return man Devin Hester has also had some issues. He muffed a punt against Jacksonville and then fumbled against Oakland, and he seemed tentative at times to run under punts against Washington. 

Rosburg dismissed the idea that the potential Hall of Fame return man is losing confidence.

"I don't see a slump. I don't see any confidence lacking," Rosburg said. "He's a great returner and he's going to go."

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