Post-Draft Breakdown: Kick Returners

T. Smith and Doss makes a long list of guys who can return kicks even longer.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Thursday, June 9th, 2011 at 11:11 am | Categories: Mike Duffy

The Ravens ended their 2010 campaign with their kickoff and punt returners pretty much decided.
 
David Reed ended up leading the NFL in kickoff returns with a 29.3-yard average, adding his first career touchdown along the way, while Lardarius Webb was solid with a 9.5-yard average on punt returns.
 
But that all could be turned on its head in 2011, as the Ravens drafted two capable returners in Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss.
 
With that duo now in the mix, here is a look at the position post-draft:
 
What We Know:
 
At the very least, Reed and Webb have shown they can handle their duties at the professional level.
 
Reed was a revelation after the Ravens spent the first half of the season experimenting with everyone from running back Jalen Parmele to cornerback Josh Wilson to safety Tom Zbikowski.
 
Once Reed stepped into the lead kickoff returner job, his speed and toughness shined. On his lone score, a franchise-record 103-yard jaunt against the Houston Texans, Reed notably broke a tackle as he reversed fields into the end zone.
 
Webb capably took over for Zbikowski when the Notre Dame product dealt with foot and back injuries. 
 
Still, with Zbikowski back to full health heading into the upcoming season, he could be thrown back into contention for the job.
 
In addition, Parmele is still on the Ravens’ roster, so he could continue to push Reed.
 
What We Don’t Know:
 
Collegiate success in the return game doesn’t necessarily always translate to the NFL, where players are faster and special teams have more advanced schemes.
 
Still, the second-round Smith was spectacular at the University of Maryland, with 123 career kickoff returns for a school- and ACC-record 2,983 yards (24.25-yard average). 
 
Smith also found the end zone three times on kickoffs for another Maryland record. With a reported 4.37-second time in the 40-yard dash, Smith’s wheels suggest he should be able to outrun tacklers.
 
He just has to show it.
 
The same goes for Doss, who was an accomplished kickoff returner at Indiana (66 career attempts for 1,549 yards and a 23.47-yard average).
 
Another question is how well Reed recovers from a late-season injury to his left wrist.  Reed was adamant heading into the spring that he wouldn’t need surgery to repair what was reported as a torn ligament.
 
But at the end of the day, how the Ravens incorporate their two young receiver/returners on special teams is the biggest unknown.

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