Entering lastoffseason, it appeared the Ravens had a glaring hole in their kick return game.Last year's top returner, David Reed, was sidelined with a torn ACL that willkeep him out at least the first half of this season. His top backup last season, TomZbikowski, went to the Colts in free agency.When the Ravenssigned receiver Jacoby Jones, it was widely viewed that he might take over kickand punt return duties in addition to his role as the No. 3 receiver. Joneshadn't returned any kickoffs since 2010, and has had much more experiencereturning punts, but his 64 career kickoff returns were far more than any othercandidate on the roster.Instead,undrafted rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson grabbed one of the final rosterspots and has emerged as the team's top kickoff return option. Through the firstfour games, Thompson has handled all the kick return duties and ranks 12th inthe league with an average of 25.9 yards a return.Thompsonpossesses what any good kick returner needs: blazing straight-line speed. Inaddition to football, Thompson spent some time running track at the Universityof Florida. He ran a 4.32 40 at the Florida pro day, and it was his speed that first opened eyes at training camp. Thompson, likemany kick returners in this era of the touchback when kickers are launchingballs from the 35-yard line, has shown no hesitation to bring a kick out fromdeep in the end zone. And Ravensspecial teams coach Jerry Rosburg said at his weekly news conference onThursday that in general, that's fine with him."We wanthim to be aggressive," Rosburg said. "We dont want him to be backthere scared we want to be aggressive."Thompson has aseason-long return of 49 yards against the Eagles, and he has come ahalf-second from breaking a long one several other times. Rosburg notedthat Thompson ran into a bit of trouble against Cleveland when he returned akick from 8 yards deep and was stopped at the Ravens' 11-yard line. Rosburgexplained that the hang time on that kick probably should have led Thompson totake a touchback, but that overall his decision-making has been good."Generallyspeaking, we give him license to make those decisions and be in attackmode," Rosburg said. "Thats the way we want to play.
Ravens want Thompson to stay aggressive in return game
October 5, 2012, 4:01 am