The Ravens have to worry about a Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver not named A.J. Green or Tyler Boyd.

Alex Erickson is the only player in the NFL who has returned three kickoffs for 40 yards or more this season, and he ranks fourth in the league in kickoff average at 26.8 yards. Containing Erickson is the first priority for the Ravens special teams unit.


“It’s a team effort,” special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg said. “You can see by his numbers that he’s a very effective player, a highly effective receiver and special teams contributor in a lot of different ways. It’s one of those things where everybody has to contribute. He’s very good at finding creases. So the first task is not to create any creases. The second thing is, we’ve got to tackle him. He slips tackles very well, he gets vertical. He’s a fine player.”

Erickson returned two kicks for an average of 22.5 yards and did not get past the Bengals’ 24-yard line. Rookie linebacker Chris Board, who leads the team in total tackles with seven and solo stops with five, said Erickson reminds him of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ryan Switzer, which means the coverage unit must cut down on potential return lanes.

“Definitely just making sure that we’re assignment-sound as far as spreading the field because he’s a very effective runner,” Board said. “He gets north and south, finds creases, and he hits them. So that’s what he’s been really good at, and it’s paid off for him.”

With a win, the Ravens could conceivably hold the AFC’s second wild-card spot by the end of Sunday.

Top grade for Andrews

Mark Andrews’ production this season has drawn the attention of analytics website Pro Football Focus, which graded him as the top rookie tight end with a 71.2 rating.

Andrews, 23, ranks fourth on the offense in receiving yards (244) and fifth in catches (21) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions (two). The organization’s third-round draft selection back in April said he did not know what criteria went into Pro Football Focus’ grading, but said his sole objective is helping the team win games.

“It’s good to be contributing,” he said. “It’s hard as a tight end and being a rookie to do that. There’s a lot to do and a lot to know. So just being able to be comfortable, I think that’s showing.”

Though headlines have focused on the Ravens' uncertainty at quarterback, they know they must recapture their early-season dominance on defense to make a serious playoff push.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun