Webb, Reed Among Return Options

A lack of punt return yards and Josh Wilson’s kickoff fumble return leave more questions.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Monday, October 25th, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Categories: 2010 Season, Mike Duffy, Week 7 vs Bills

The Ravens were hoping to get a spark out of their punt return game in Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills by inserting Lardarius Webb and Ed Reed into that unit.

Two fair catches for zero yards later, the Ravens continued to field the NFL’s 31st-rated punt return unit (5.7 yards per game).

With Tom Zbikowski out because of a bruised heel, Webb and Reed took the brief punt duties. That could change as the season progresses.

“As far as putting Lardarius back there, he’s the guy that’s got some talent, some ability and he’s a good returner,” Harbaugh said in his Monday press conference. “We felt like he was our best option in this game.

“I do feel confident that we have some guys that can do it as we go forward… Obviously, Zibby will be coming back, Chris Carr’s an option back there, Donte’ Stallworth will be coming back. Mason’s been in my ear to do it. Guys want to help; guys want to be a part of it. So we’ll try to get that thing going.”

Mason is the most surprising of those names. The 14-year veteran hasn’t returned a punt since 2004, but he did go to the Pro Bowl in 2000 with the Tennessee Titans after leading the NFL in punt return yards (662).

Otherwise, Carr was the Ravens’ main punt returner towards the end of 2009, and Stallworth fielded punts in the preseason.

Kickoff returns are a similar story of wanting more yards, but ball security was an issue against the Bills.

Josh Wilson was stripped on a first-quarter kickoff return deep, and Buffalo recovered in Ravens territory to kick a field goal and take an early 10-3 lead.

On the year, the Ravens average 21.3 yards per kickoff return, tied with the Miami Dolphins for the league’s 21st unit.

“[Wilson] putting the ball on the ground was really, really a problem,” said Harbaugh. “That should never have happened; Josh will tell you that. There’s no reason for it to happen. It was not well-blocked. They did a nice job of covering it, making some blocks miss. But at that point in time, you minimize, get up to the 20-yard line and wherever the offense goes, we’ll be in good shape.”

Harbaugh believes the remedy for both return units is taking what the coverage teams gives them and not trying to force the issue.

“To me, the returners are trying a little too hard right now to make a play. That’s the big thing,” Harbaugh explained. “Make a good, solid play, run the ball north and south, protect the football high and tight, and we’ll get it blocked and there will be some plays there for us. But don’t make an average play into a bad play. That’s kind of the cardinal sin.”

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