Aug 28, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; A Baltimore Ravens helmet sits on a box on the sidelines during the second half of their game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Ravens are perhaps now seeing how valuable Jacoby Jones was even though he struggled in the special teams unit last season.
Why do I say this now?
Well, if you’ve paid any attention to the competition in the returner department, then you’d understand why I’m bringing Jacoby up in this article. He might have had his share of struggles last season, but based on what he was able to accomplish prior to that, teams still had to be on their toes when he was on the other end of the field waiting to return a kickoff or a punt.
Jones was just that special and had literally put together a highlight reel in his time with the Ravens off of returns alone, one of which came in the Super Bowl back in 2013 when Jones returned a kick for 109 yards and a touchdown, setting an all-time record.
Jones muffed quite a few balls last season and didn’t rack up the kind of yards that Ravens fans were used to seeing, but head coach John Harbaugh could still count on his experience and playmaking ability.
Well, that’s far from the case now. The Ravens have struggled to fill the void left by Jones since he signed with the San Diego Chargers in the offseason. They’ve tried quite a few guys at the position, giving them necessary reps, but the jury is still out on who will solidify the returner job.
Right now, the Ravens are in a battle with their roster decisions and cornerback and special teams returner Asa Jackson was at one point at the top of that battle, at least it seemed. However, after confusing the Ravens’ organization with his up and down play in the preseason, he’s now been released by the Ravens.
While the release came as somewhat of a shock, if you think back to Jackson’s offseason and preseason play, you can probably begin to understand why Baltimore had to part their ways with the 2012 fifth-round pick.
In Baltimore’s final preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night, Jackson nearly ran a punt back for a touchdown before tripping over his own feet with only the punter left to get by. Jackson had one other punt return in the game and he fumbled that opportunity, literally. That was the second straight game we’ve seen that from Jackson.
“You can tell he’s just a dangerous, dangerous returner. But you’ve got to be dangerous for them, not for us. He can do it,” Harbaugh said when asked about balancing Jackson’s potential with his sometimes bonehead mistakes.
Well, it’s clear that Harbaugh believed Jackson was more dangerous to the team than he would have been to opponents this season.
Sep 3, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson (27) falls while returning a punt against the Atlanta Falcons in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Nonetheless, this is not a conversation that Harbaugh was having last offseason as he and the rest of the coaching staff had all the faith in the world in what Jacoby brought to the table. With the special teams unit usually not receiving too much media attention, Harbaugh was able to focus more on the offense and defense and the ups and downs that came with those units.
With the lack of readiness among the potential returners, Harbaugh has no choice, but to give it his undivided attention. However, I’m sure he was banking on having this thing figured out by now.
The Ravens don’t have a lot of options at returner right now. Some of the other players that have been in the conversation include Michael Campanaro, Steve Smith Sr. and Lardarius Webb. The only one of the three that makes sense for the Ravens would be Campanaro given the fact that Smith and Webb are at the end of their careers and just too valuable to risk injury as returners.
I know that the NFL is a business and moves have to be made once a high paid player is no longer holding up their side of the bargain and that had Jacoby Jones written all over it last year. However, I can’t help but think that there are times — times like these –when the Ravens are sitting down holding their heads wishing Jacoby was still in a purple and black uniform.
Dec 21, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones (12) during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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