Ravens weigh their return options

Ravens weigh their return options
September 12, 2013, 4:15 pm
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With Jacoby Jones out for a month or more with a knee injury, the Ravens have a major hole to fill on offense as well as on both kick and punt return units.

In his weekly media session, Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was noncommittal about the return roles, but the Ravens this week made two roster moves that figure prominently in that area.

First, the Ravens re-signed wide receiver Tandon Doss, who has experience as a punt returner. Then they signed former Kansas City running back Shaun Draughn, who has experience as a kick returner.

The Ravens current depth chart lists Jones and Deonte Thompson as the top two kick returners, but Thompson has been sidelined since the first preseason game with an ankle injury. Running back Bernard Pierce is listed as the No. 3 kick returner, and lined up in that role at Denver but every kickoff to Pierce in that game resulted in a touchback.

Draughn averaged 23.3 yards on 23 returns for the Chiefs last season -- including a season-long return of 41 yards against the Ravens -- but Draughn said on Wednesday that he wasn't yet sure of his role, and Rosburg wasn't ready to declare him the kick returner on Sunday.

"He's practicing in all the phases that we anticipate him playing for us," Rosburg said. "The decision will be made obviously prior to game time whether he's ready to go or not or how he fits in to the 46-man lineup.

"We like the things he did at Kansas City," Rosburg added. "We played against him ourselves, so we kind of knew of him, and he's a good player."

As for punt returns, Rosburg said Lardarius Webb remains a top candidate, but Webb is also the Ravens top cornerback and is coming off his second ACL reconstruction in four seasons.

Webb had a 13-yard punt return against Denver and has averaged 9.8 yards on 53 career returns, including one touchdown.

"He likes doing it, and we like having him do it, because he's good at it," Rosburg said.

"We have other options," Rosburg added, "but he's certainly one of the options."

Another is Doss, who was re-signed earlier this week after being among the Ravens final cuts. Doss had four punt returns last season, averaging 13.3 yards, including a 40-yarder in the regular-season game against Denver. He also had four returns for 9 yards in the preseason.

"He's an excellent catcher of the ball," Rosburg said. "He makes really good decisions. ... Some guys underneath the ball, they move around and they stutter their feet, and for him he's very relaxed and balanced under the ball. He's got excellent hands. So that's the first thing with any punt returner."

"He can put his foot in the ground and he's a big guy," Rosburg added. "He's got strength and he can knock guys off of him, so we look at him as a possibility, certainly."