Ravens Confident In Jacoby Jones As Returner


All too frequently these days, Jacoby Jones puts his hands up as the opposing team's coverage squad simply runs past him.

Jones is considered one of the game's most dangerous returners. He scored five return touchdowns the past two seasons, including the most memorable 108-yarder in Super Bowl XLVII.

But Jones' success has led to opponents not giving him many chances. And things got even worse last Sunday when a punt bounced off Jones' leg, a fumble recovered by the Colts.

Baltimore used cornerback Lardarius Webb to field the rest of the game's punts after Jones' fumble, but that was pre-scheduled and a matter of happenstance. The Ravens wanted the sure-handed Webb to field punts deep into Ravens territory.

Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg indicated that he isn't debating making a change at returner.

"I've got all the confidence in Jacoby," he said Thursday. "I look forward to the next time he's got his hands on the ball, because he's really good with his hands on the ball. We've got to get him to catch it, block well and give him an opportunity to do what he does best."

Last year, Jones was fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average (28.8) and fifth in punt return average (12.5). His averages have dipped this season, but not by much. He's averaging 26.7 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards per punt return.

But Jones doesn't even qualify among ESPN's statistical leaders because he doesn't have enough attempts. Jones has just six kickoff returns through five games this season, tied for 17th in the league. His six punt returns are tied for 23rd in the NFL.

The Ravens re-signed Jones this past offseason in part because he can be such a difference-maker on special teams. Jones has hardly gotten the opportunity.

At times, it looks like Jones has been frustrated on the field when he hasn't had a chance for a return. He brought one punt out from the 2-yard line in Week 4 against the Panthers.

Rosburg said he hasn't seen a difference in his confidence, and seemed to indicate that the Ravens can do things to help him boost the number of returns he gets.

"He's still the same Jacoby that we all love. He's practicing hard. We all want to see him catch the ball, and we're on his side," Rosburg said. "We're going to give him more opportunities to do that because we know he's an elite returner."

Opponents are kicking away from Jones using a variety of different methods. They've mostly just blasted kicks out of the end zone, not even giving Jones a chance. They've hit some line drives that are difficult (or impossible) for him to field while simultaneously throwing off the blocking unit's timing.

On punts, more punters are using high, end-over-end Rugby-style boots that are shorter, but have longer hang time. They maybe don't push the opponent back as far, but they at least prevent a return that could get dangerous.

The Colts' punt that Jones muffed was a short one that the Ravens were expecting.

"If we go catch that ball, it might score," Harbaugh said. "That's the thing that Jacoby is kicking himself about. He must not have seen it come off [Pat McAfee's] foot, because he just got a late start. And then he got in that no-man's land and tried to do the smart thing and the safe thing to get away from it, and he was just too close to it."

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