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When rookie Lardarius Webb took a kickoff 38 yards to set up a last-chance drive in the Ravens’ 27-21 loss to the New England Patriots last weekend, he made a solid bid for a bigger role.
Chris Carr’s fumble of the opening kickoff may have perpetuated that notion.
Carr entered the game as the primary kickoff and punt returner, and while there have been glimpses of breaking an explosive runback, there has not been consistent production.
“In the return game, we’ve shown flashes of some explosiveness but the same thing, we need to be more consistent in that regard,” said special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. “The other thing we need to do is hang on to the football. Ball security is a big issue in this whole club, not just our special teams. So, that’s something we’ll continue to improve on.”
Carr is currently 15th in the NFL in kickoff return yardage, averaging 24.5 yards. He is 19th in punt returns with a 7.0-yard average. His fumble led to a Patriots field goal that opened the scoring.
Carr seemed confident he could bounce back, though.
I chatted with him for a few minutes in the locker room, and he obviously has been in this situation before as a longtime returner in this league, previously with the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans.
Carr laughed when I asked him what coaches say to him after a fumble like that.
“Most of the time, there’s really nothing to say. If anything, you should be positive,” he said. “When you worry about it, it will hinder you. You should treat it as an anomaly and don’t give a turnover any credence. Everybody knows what to do. I mean, what’s the coaching point?”
Good point. I guess that would just be, “Hold on to the ball.”
Carr also believes that it is simply a matter of time before the return units make a splash.
“We have to keep working on blocking, hitting it and holding on to the ball,” he continued. “That big play hasn’t happened yet, but if you look over the course of the season, the majority of the kicks aren’t going to be big, explosive plays.
“You can’t try to push things and do more because it hasn’t happened soon. You have to relax and be patient. Hopefully, we don’t get as many kickoff returns because that means they’re not scoring touchdowns.”
As for the rotation of the two returners, Webb was uncertain how many chances he would get on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals come to Baltimore.
“I don’t know for sure,” Webb said of taking kick returns. “I’ve been working at it, but other than that, I don’t know yet. So I’m not going to say something and then it doesn’t really happen.”
“I think they’ve always had confidence [in him]. It is Chris’ job right now. I’m just out there doing what I can when they need me.”
Still, it looks like Rosburg is going to hold his cards close to the chest.
“That’s an ongoing process,” he stated. “We have a number of returners in our system. Chris Carr is going to continue to have a very significant role on this team. It will include kickoff returns, punt returns and being our nickel. We don’t see that changing down the road.
“Just like all other rookies, Lardarius gets more opportunities and we find out more things that he can do. We expect his role to expand.”