Ravens wide receiver Donte' Stallworth is expected to return to the lineup soon after suffering a fractured foot in the preseason. Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the Ravens are keeping "our fingers crossed" that Stallworth will return for next Sunday's home game against the Dolphins.
It will be interesting to see how the Ravens utilize the speedy wideout when he returns. With seven former Pro Bowlers at the skill positions, including three receivers who all want to be Joe Flacco's first option, it's hard to tell how he will fit in. My guess is he will see 10-15 snaps a game, but the key word there is "guess."
I thought this quote from Flacco at Tuesday's press conference was interesting: "Obviously he has a lot of speed, and teams are going to have to prepare for some different packages when we get him back. And hopefully, he can stretch the field for us a little bit and at least scare some teams."
Different packages? Perhaps we'll see a four-wide set with dynamic dual-threat Ray Rice coming out of the backfield. I imagine that would be a tough group for opposing defenses to match up against. Stallworth has the deep speed to blow the top off the coverage, opening up things for his fellow receivers. He also ran a lot of routes across the formation during training camp — getting open regularly — which is something to keep in the back of your mind when he returns.
Stallworth is also in the mix in the return game, an area in which the Ravens are searching for answers.
"I do feel confident that we have some guys that can do it as we go forward," Harbaugh said Monday. "Obviously, [Tom Zbikowski] will be coming back. Chris Carr's an option back there. Donte' Stallworth will be coming back. [Derrick] Mason has been in my ear to do it. So, guys want to help, guys want to be a part of it, so we'll try to get that thing going."
Stallworth has returned just eight kickoffs in his career — all in 2003 when he was with the Saints — and he returned 18 punts for New Orleans between 2003 and 2005.
I'm all for giving Stallworth an opportunity as a punt returner, and for kickoffs, the Ravens need to give an extended look to Josh Wilson, despite his fumble against the Bills. Rookie David Reed should be in the mix, too, but that will have an impact in the game-day numbers game when it comes to picking inactive players.