How are the Ravens planning for E.J. Manuel?
Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson is gradually recovering from his ankle injury that has sidelined him since Week 1 of the preseason. But once Thompson returns to action, what will his role be?
Will he immediately assume the starting kick return job if he beats Jacoby Jones back from the injured list? Will he give the Ravens' struggling passing game a badly needed spark?
There's no doubt that Thompson has the speed and athleticism to be a big-play threat on both special teams and offense. That's a major reason he made the Ravens last season as an undrafted rookie out of Florida.
There's also no doubt that the Ravens could use a jolt -- any jolt -- to its passing attack, and Thompson has the speed to stretch the field.
But the jury is still out on Thompson as a receiver. He made only five catches last season, and four of them came in the regular-season finale when most starters took most of the day off.
Thompson missed virtually the entire preseason after hurting his foot at Tampa Bay, and for Thompson, the timing couldn't have been worse. He was on the sideline for much of the spirited training camp competition among wide receivers, and thus promising rookie Marlon Brown leap-frogged him on the depth chart. Then when Jones went down in Week 1 with a knee injury, Thompson wasn't healthy to take his spot on returns.
Still, Thompson said this week that before his injury, he thought he and quarterback Joe Flacco had "pretty good chemistry ... It's not going to take too much to get it back going once I get back out there."
Thompson has more experience as a kick returner. He held that job at the start of last season, but then he fumbled a return at Kansas City and was replaced by Jacoby Jones the next week. Jones took back the first return he saw 108 yards for a touchdown, and Thompson never had another return all season.
Thompson averaged 25.9 yards on 15 returns with a long of 49.
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said on Thursday that Thompson has been practicing as a kick returner, and that he "demonstrated a year ago that he has the skills to do that. ... He's had success, too, and he understands it. I think he’d probably be pretty excited about that opportunity should it come his way.”