Saturday, September 7, 2013
Impact of losing Jones for at least a month
By Jamison Hensley
The Baltimore Ravens could be without wide receiver-returner Jacoby Jones for four to six weeks, according to multiple reports.
Jones reportedly has sprained his medial collateral ligament in his right knee after undergoing an MRI on Friday. He was injured when undrafted rookie Brynden Trawick, who was playing in his first NFL game, ran into the Pro Bowl returner on a punt return in Baltimore's season-opening 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos Thursday night.
The Ravens can't put Jones on the injured reserve-designated for return list because they used that on tight end Dennis Pitta. And, given the possibility of Jones returning in a month, Baltimore wouldn't have used that designation, which sidelines a player for at least eight weeks, on Jones.
Here's the impact of not having a triple threat like Jones:
Wide receiver: Minimal. Jones was the No. 2 receiver for the Ravens, but it's debatable whether he's the second-best receiver on the team. You can make the argument that undrafted rookie Marlon Brown is a better pass-catcher right now than Jones. In the season opener, Jones had three catches for 24 yards in a little over one quarter of work, while Brown had four receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. Brown's size and ability to make catches over the middle is an asset to this offense. So, in the big picture, Baltimore is going to miss Anquan Boldin (traded in the offseason) more than Jones.
Punt returns: Moderate. It looks like the Ravens are going to have cornerback Lardarius Webb fill in for Jones here. Jones scored a critical touchdown off a punt at Pittsburgh last season, but he ranked 15th in the NFL in punt returns with a 9.2-yard average. Baltimore may not lose much with Webb, who is an experienced punt returner. In 2011, Webb had a slightly better average (10.0) than Jones and had a 68-yard touchdown. The biggest problems deal with injury. The Ravens ideally wouldn't want to put too much on Webb, who is 11 months removed from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, and wouldn't want to expose their best cover corner to getting hurt on special teams.
Kickoff returns: Big. This is the role where Jones excels the most. Jones earned his first Pro Bowl nod primarily for leading the NFL with a franchise-record 30.7-yard kickoff return average. He is the only player in NFL history to record two kickoff return touchdowns of at least 105 yards, and he did so in a four-week span last season. Jones also had a Super Bowl-record 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half. The Ravens went with Bernard Pierce on kickoffs after losing Jones on Thursday night, although the injured Deonte Thompson (foot) is listed as the No. 2 kickoff returner on the depth chart. Whoever takes over, the Ravens won't have the same explosiveness as they did with Jones.