The loss of cornerback Lardarius Webb to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee is a blow to the Ravens defense. It also could impact the team on punt returns.
Webb had teamed with Jacoby Jones for that duty, and although he handled just six chances – half of what Jones has undertaken so far – Webb was a sure-handed option.
Now the Ravens are left with deciding how to fill the vacancy. For now, it appears that Jones will be the primary returner and free safety Ed Reed can complement him, but the team could also turn to a pair of rookies in Asa Jackson and Bobby Rainey.
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In the preseason, Jackson finished with just one punt return for 40 yards, but he had an 85-yard return against the Detroit Lions on Aug. 17 nullified by a holding penalty.
“Being in the return game is something I’ve always liked and something I’ve always prided myself on,” said Jackson, the organization’s fifth-round choice who has been deactivated for every game thus far. “It’s something that I can bring to a team. So now that I’m looking more like I can get that opportunity, I’m excited and I’m ready.”
Rainey led the team in punt returns in the preseason with eight and averaged 6.8 yards per return. Rainey said proving himself on special teams has been a priority of his.
“I’ve been getting a lot of reps at punt returner since Webb went down,” Rainey said. “But we’ll see how it plays out.”
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was reluctant to specify who would be replacing Webb, but he said ball security and explosiveness are two characteristics that will be high on his list.
“We went all the way through preseason, and Bobby Rainey had reps, Asa Jackson had reps, Ed Reed is one of the most sure-handed guys in the National Football League, and we have Jacoby,” Rosburg said. “So we’ll miss Webby, but we have other guys that can step up and fill in.”