By Edward Lee
2:20 PM EDT, November 4, 2011
David Reed has not yet recaptured the magic that helped him lead the NFL in kick returns last season as a rookie, but that hasn’t dissuaded special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg from sticking with Reed as the Ravens’ primary kick returner.
“You can look at the stats and see that he’s not, but he’s close,” Rosburg said during his weekly briefing Thursday. “But more than that, we’re looking at the whole unit rather than just David. The results of David’s returns are a product of what happens up front. And when there are guys in the hole and he’s trying to make somebody miss and it’s not clean, there’s all kinds of things that go into it. David has been back and forth with injuries, and I think he’s now getting into the swing of things. I’m anxious for him to get another opportunity and go make something happen because in that particular phase, he can be a difference maker. We love the way he runs the ball, he has a passion for it, he’s been an explosive player, and that would be very valuable this week.”
Reed, who led the league with a 29.3-yard average in 2010, currently ranks fourth in the same department with a 29.2-yard average. But the number is slightly deceiving.
Of his nine kick returns thus far, seven of them have failed to put the offense past the Ravens’ own 20-yard line. Aside from a 77-yard return against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 18 and a 37-yard return against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 24 that was impacted by a holding penalty on Prescott Burgess, there’s an argument that Reed would have been better off downing those seven kickoffs in the end zone.
In Sunday’s 30-27 win against the Arizona Cardinals, Reed averaged 21.3 yards on four returns, but ended up putting the offense on its own 15, 17, 19 and 20. That wasn’t the showing that Reed had in mind.
“I didn’t feel like I did a good job at all,” he said Thursday. “Kickoff returns is a team effort, and every man has got to be doing his job or else someone’s going to have to pay, and I guess I was that guy. I don’t know. It was just bad for me. I didn’t play that good. I was not happy with my performance.”
Reed, who missed two games with a left shoulder strain suffered in the waning minutes of the contest against the Titans, said he thinks he’s making progress in capturing last year’s form.
“I’ve just had little nicks, and I’m just trying to get through them,” he said. “I’m real comfortable with it. I’m back to where I was.”
If Reed’s ineffectiveness continues, the Ravens have another option in Bryan McCann, the former Dallas Cowboy who had one of his two kick returns against the Houston Texans on Oct. 16 stopped short of the 20.
McCann said he is prepared to assume any role, saying, “If I’m not in the game, I’m waiting to get in. So I welcome any opportunity for the coach to say, ‘We need you in there.’ I’ll go in there and play as hard as I can.”
Rosburg said he is comfortable with McCann returning kicks, but for now, that role belongs to Reed.
“As we all know, this league, every week, there’s new players getting opportunities,” Rosburg said. “But whatever David does, David does. And he knows it just like every other player out there, that there are other players that want to do what they do. So there’s no less pressure, there’s no more pressure on David to perform every week. He knows that, he understands that, he’s practicing that way, and he’s playing that way as well.”
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