Could wide receiver Willie Snead IV be the answer as the Ravens’ No. 1 returner?
Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg raised that possibility following Wednesday’s practice. The Ravens are still looking for someone to win the job of No. 1 returner after Tim White and Janarion Grant both fumbled punt returns Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts.
If neither White nor Grant earn the confidence of the coaching staff, the Ravens feel they have a viable option in Snead, who returned one kickoff and one punt last year for the New Orleans Saints. The kickoff return went for 18 yards, but he fumbled the punt return.
Snead has not returned punts or kickoffs during the preseason, but that does not mean he won’t be assume the job once the regular season begins.
“We’re looking for the starting returner if it’s not Willie Snead,” Rosburg said.
“The race is on, it has been on, and it continues. The results of this last game were disappointing, because the most important thing a returner does for us is secure the ball. That’s No. 1. We’ve had an efficient return game over the years here, because the priority being, before you can win the game, don’t lose the game. They have a duty to the rest of the team to protect the football, and they know that.
“In both of those situations they needed to lock the ball down and they didn’t. Hopefully the lesson’s been learned.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh, who has a special teams background, made a point of emphasizing that lesson in front of the team in the postgame locker room in Indianapolis.
While Snead doesn’t have a long track record as a returner, Rosburg has noticed his attention to detail during special teams meetings.
“He’s locked in, he comes out here and practices well,” Rosburg said. “We’ll see how it plays out down the road. We still have two preseason games left, so you want to get those other guys an opportunity to show what they can do.”
White (Arizona State) and Grant (Rutgers) were both dynamic returners in college and have flashed their potential in the NFL. On Monday night, Grant made one defender miss and broke three tackles during an 18-yard punt return before fumbling. They are more true returners who aren’t expected to have as big of offensive roles as Snead. Thus, the Ravens would like one of them to emerge.
That means White and Grant will likely handle return duties Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins. But if the Ravens need to turn elsewhere for a returner, Snead is their insurance policy.