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Ravens sticking with Jacoby Jones as punt returner

10/9/2014

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens continue to express confidence in Jacoby Jones as a returner even though he has made mistakes fielding punts the past two weeks.

Jones took a big risk returning a punt from his own 2-yard line two games ago against the Carolina Panthers, and he then turned the ball over last Sunday in Indianapolis, where he misread a punt and allowed it to bounce off him.

But the Ravens aren't planning to make a change at punt returner, according to special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

"We're going to give him more opportunities to do that because we know he's an elite returner," Rosburg said. "But to be an elite returner, you have to have a ball in your hands. We need to get that fixed, and give him an opportunity to run with it."

It's a tough situation for the Ravens because they know that Jones can be a difference-maker. In the previous two seasons (including playoffs), he has five returns for touchdowns over a 32-game stretch for the Ravens.

Now it's a matter of how much the Ravens trust him as a punt returner. He wasn't on the field for another punt return after that turnover in Indianapolis, but Rosburg said he wasn't benched.

When the Ravens are going to field a punt deep in their own territory, they prefer to use cornerback Lardarius Webb as their returner because he has better hands, which comes into play because of all the weird spins that punters use on knuckleball and rugby kicks to pin teams deep. That's why Webb was on the field for the remaining punts.

Through five games, Jones hasn't made much of a positive impact on punt returns. He has had as many returns (six) and fair catches, a sign teams are trying to kick away from him. His 11.2-yard average ranks 10th in the NFL.

Rosburg said he hasn't seen Jones' struggles affect him.

"Jacoby is a guy that's full of spirit," Rosburg said. "I've heard about people talk about his confidence. I haven't seen any difference in his confidence in the meeting room. He's the same Jacoby that we all love. He's practicing hard. We all want to see him catch the ball. We're on his side."

Even though Jones was a Pro Bowl returner in 2012, he's better on kickoffs, where he can build up more acceleration. During his three seasons with the Ravens, he has returned four kickoffs for touchdowns and one punt for a score. His 29.6-yard average on kickoffs since 2012 ranks second in the NFL.

The Ravens re-signed Jones in the offseason to a four-year, $12 million contract that included $4.5 million guaranteed. He hasn't been much of a factor as a receiver, dropping four passes (which is tied for fourth-most in the NFL).

There are not many options for the Ravens at punt returner. Webb isn't at full strength, Asa Jackson is injured, Michael Campanaro is inexperienced and Deonte Thompson is on the practice squad and hasn't fielded a punt in a regular-season game.

The Ravens, though, don't sound like a team that is close to giving up on Jones.

"I've got all the confidence in the world in him," Rosburg said. "I look forward to the next time he's got his hands on the ball. We've got to get him to catch it, and block well and give him an opportunity to do what he does best."