"The Competition" is a series that breaks down every position battle leading up to training camp. Below are the special teams returners:
WR Steve Smith Sr. (5-foot-9, 195 pounds, 15th season)
CB Lardarius Webb (5-foot-10, 182 pounds, 7th season)
Michael Campanaro (5-foot-10, 185 pounds, 2nd season)
CB Asa Jackson (5-foot-10, 182 pounds, 4th season)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (5-foot-10, 205 pounds, 2nd season)
WR DeAndre Carter (5-foot-8, 185 pounds, undrafted)
This is a tough one to predict. If healthy, Campanaro and Jackson are likely the leading candidates. Campanaro briefly stepped in for Jacoby Jones on punt returns before suffering a hamstring injury in Week 8. Jackson was given a look at returner during the 2012 and 2013 preseasons before stepping into a bigger role at cornerback last year. With the arrival of Kyle Arrington, Jackson could be freed up to do more in the return game, particularly on punts. Toussaint may be the leader at kick returner given that he returned two last year for an average of 20.5 yards.
Key Role Players
Webb says he wants to be the Ravens' returner, but that might be a difficult approval to secure from coaches considering how important he is to the defensive secondary. The Ravens used Webb occasionally as a punt returner last year, but only for fair catches when backed up against their own end zone. Baltimore has a lot of trust in Webb's ball security in those situations. Webb will likely have a tough time convincing coaches of a bigger role.
Most Anticipated Battle
The entire battle is one worth watching. Campanaro, Jackson and Toussaint have the (limited) experience. Carter, a shifty undrafted rookie out of Sacramento State, will get his shot. He only returned four punts as a senior, but one was for a touchdown, and he averaged 23.7 yards on kickoff returns and 12.5 yards on punt returns over his college career. Smith hasn't returned a punt since 2010 or a kick since 2006, so he is an outside candidate along with Webb.
The battle is wide open at both kick returner and punt returner with Jacoby Jones now gone.