Return Game Not As Strong As Ravens Want


The Ravens came into the 2012 season with two new returners.

Rookie Deonte Thompson has worked as the kick returner and free-agent acquisition Jacoby Jones has primarily handled the punt return duties. Both have showed promise at times, but the overall return game has not been as strong as the Ravens would like.

"The return game so far has been not as good as we want it to be, we continue to work on it," Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Thursday.

Thompson has averaged 25.9 yards per kick return (13th best in the NFL) and Jones averages 9.0 yards per punt return (17th).

The biggest miscue in the return game came in Sunday's win against the Chiefs, where Thompson fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half. The turnover gave the Chiefs great starting field position and also wiped away a return that could have gone for big yardage, as Thompson thought he could have scored on the play.

The positive with that play, Rosburg said, was that the overall return unit showed it is starting to execute on the scheme the Ravens have put into place.

"There were so many good things on that particular piece of video that we're going to reinforce the positive and correct the things that we need to correct and go to the next opportunity and look forward to a better result," Rosburg said.

One player who could possibly inject some new life into the return game is third-year kick returner David Reed. He is currently on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing offseason knee surgery to repair a torn ACL, but is eligible to come off the PUP as early as next week.

Reed led the NFL in kick return average as a rookie and was the starting returner last season before fumbling twice in a loss to Seattle. When he is healthy enough to come off the PUP list, the Ravens plan to give him a hard look at kick returner.

"David Reed has shown that he can return the ball," Rosburg said. "We're going to give David every opportunity, just like we do all of our other returners."

In terms of the punt return job, the Ravens will likely continue to use Jones in the primary role with cornerback Lardarius Webb also getting some opportunities. Jones has been a punt returner throughout his six years in the NFL and has three punt return touchdowns in his career.

Whoever ends up working as the returners, Rosburg believes that the units are making strides and the improvements are on the way.

"We're confident that all the good blocks we're getting and all the good setups that we're getting are going to pay dividends as we go down the road," Rosburg said.

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