"The Competition" is a BaltimoreRavens.com series that breaks down every position leading up to training camp.
WR/KR David Reed (6-foot-0, 190 pounds, third season): Reed led the NFL in average yards per kickoff return (29.3) in 2010. He came back from a season-ending hand/wrist injury in 2011 to average 29.7 yards per return on 18 attempts. Reed's downfall was fumbles. He had three, including two in one game in Seattle. Now he's returning from an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
S/PR Ed Reed (5-11, 200, 11th season): Reed is a candidate to jump in as punt returner at any point. For the most part, coaches give the Pro Bowler free reign. Reed's not the fastest returner, but is extremely elusive. He had three punt returns (9.7-yard average) last year, and fair caught five.
WR/KR Torrey Smith (6-0, 205, second season): The Ravens didn't use Smith much at all as a returner his rookie year. He had one return for 24 yards. But Smith has the ability to do more if needed. He holds school and ACC records with 123 kickoff returns for 2,983 yards, and his three touchdowns set a Maryland record.
CB/PR/KR Lardarius Webb (5-10, 182, fourth season): After signing Webb to a six-year deal this offseason, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he would rather find somebody else to take over punt return duties. Still, Harbaugh also added that he's not afraid to use Webb if he has to. Webb averaged 10 yards per punt return last year and took one back for a touchdown in Cleveland. He had two kickoff returns for a 29.5-yard average.
WR/KR LaQuan Williams (6-0, 200, second season): With Smith taking return duties at Maryland, Williams did not have the ball in his hands on special teams in college. He took more of that role in the NFL, making five kickoff returns (21.8-yard average) and one punt return, which he fumbled.
WR/PR/KR Jacoby Jones (6-2, 212, sixth season): Jones was largely signed to be the Ravens' returner. It's the first time the Ravens have added an experienced, successful, veteran returner during the Harbaugh era. Jones averaged 10.6 yards per punt return and had a touchdown last year with Houston, but he also had problems with fumbles. He didn't field kickoffs last season, but is expected to contend for that position in Baltimore.
CB/PR Asa Jackson (5-10, 190, Cal Poly): Jackson returned 38 career punts for 559 yards to produce a school-record 14.7-yard career average, which was the highest mark among active FCS players at the end of Jackson's senior year. He also posted a 25.1-yard kickoff return average (15 returns for 377 yards).
WR/KR Deonte Thompson (6-0, 200, Florida): Thompson says he was a dynamic high school returner, but was beat out by Brandon James (now a returner for Indianapolis) at Florida. Thompson can run a 40-yard dash in the 4.2-second range, so he has the speed to do it. He's been working on kickoff returns this summer.
Jones seems to have the lead at both returner spots. He should bring consistency to the position that hasn't been there since the start of the Harbaugh era.
Of the two returner positions, Jones has more of a stranglehold on punt returner. He's held that position ever since he came into the league, and the Ravens don't want to see Webb get injured on special teams. Jackson appears to be his chief competitor, but he missed much of Organized Team Activities waiting for classes at Cal Poly to finish.
Kick returner is a bit more of a competition. Jones carries a 23.3-yard career average, which is significantly less than D. Reed's 29.5-yard career mark. D. Reed has two touchdowns in as many years while Jones has one in four years at kick returner.
The major factor in play is Reed's health. He says he'll be back on the field for training camp and is currently 90 percent in recovering from his knee surgery. Once he returns, it should be a good competition between him and Jones.
The other candidates are likely backups in case of injury. E. Reed and Webb could come in at random times to provide a spark. Smith is unlikely because of his importance at wide receiver. Williams isn't a natural returner. While possessing the tools, Thompson doesn't have the experience.