Who Will Be Returner After Asa Jackson Cut?


Asa Jackson knew after Thursday's preseason finale that he put himself in a difficult position.

He fumbled and stumbled away his opportunities to win the starting kick and punt returner jobs, which was his best avenue onto the roster, and the Ravens parted ways with the four-year veteran Saturday as part of their final roster cuts.

The lingering question now is who will take over Baltimore's return duties?

Despite Jackson's miscues, he had been the team's most explosive return man in the preseason. He returned a kickoff 103 yards and a punt 53 yards in back-to-back games, showing he could bring big-play ability.

"It makes it difficult," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Saturday night. "You can tell he's just a dangerous, dangerous returner. But you've got to be dangerous for them, not for us.

No other Raven had a kickoff return longer than 26 yards or a punt return longer than 10 yards. And every player who returned a kickoff for Baltimore in the preseason – Jackson, Terrence Magee, DeAndre Carter, Tom Nelson and Aldrick Robinson – have all been cut.

The most likely in-house candidate to assume the return duties is second-year receiver Michael Campanaro. He has experience as a punt returner, and he looked like the top option before suffering a soft tissue injury before the second preseason game.

Campanaro played only the preseason opener, and had one punt return for 10 yards. He also had two punt returns last season for a total of 17 yards.

The Ravens could also go the veteran route, putting wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. or cornerback Lardarius Webb in that role. Both returned punts earlier in their careers and had success doing it, and Harbaugh described them as the team's "aces in the hole" when it comes to the punt return job. 

Putting them in that role comes with upside and risk, as the Ravens can't afford to lose either of them on offense or defense, but they also might be the team's best options.

"At some point in time, you put your best players on the field," Harbaugh said last month. "Punt return is an opportunity in space to make a play, and guys like Steve Smith are pretty good at doing that. So, I like having our best players on the field as much as possible."

The other possibility is bringing in a veteran off the waiver wire. Teams around the league cut more than 1,000 players this week, and many of them have return experience. The Ravens could use the next couple of days to look outside the building to find another option.

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