While the carousel continues to turn at the punt return position, the Ravens, for now, have found their kickoff returner.
Wide receiver David Reed has gotten the call the last two games, and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said this week that Reed will be the guy again this Sunday against the Panthers.
That news obviously thrilled the rookie out of Utah, who is still itching for an opportunity to make a big play in the return game.
“It’s only been two games doing it, and I haven’t really gotten many returns,” Reed said this week. “They keep kicking them deep in the end zone and stuff, so I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove still. There’s a lot of plays to be made, and I’m going to make them.”
In his two games as the Ravens’ kickoff returner, Reed has returned five kicks for 108 yards, averaging a modest 21.6 yards per run-back.
But, despite his lack of big plays in his limited chances thus far, and despite being one of the quietest players on the team, Reed isn’t lacking for confidence.
“I’m definitely starting to feel comfortable,” Reed said. “I just love having the ball in my hands. I love returning.
“I’m going to break one sooner or later. You’ll see.”
The Ravens have struggled to break one this whole season, as their longest kickoff return through nine games is just 39 yards.
Talking with a few members of the special teams unit, they say the issues in the return game this season aren’t schematic, and they aren’t necessarily difficult to fix. They say it’s just a question of everyone filling their role and not trying to do too much.
Reed said he feels like the unit is starting to form some chemistry, and they’ve been seeing positive results in practice.
“It’s just really as a whole, we’re just trying to get the blocks right and get in the right sets and setting to the right depth,” Reed said. “That’s really the main focus right now. I’m a north-south runner, I’m not really a jittery, juking-type runner, and I think coach knows that already. Really, the main emphasis is ball security. Just don’t drop it. Don’t fumble, squeeze the rock, two hands on contact. The basics.”
It’s only been five returns, but the Ravens’ coaches have liked what they’ve seen from Reed so far. Rosburg raved about the rookie this week, praising the way he takes care of the football and runs hard north-south.
“I think David Reed has grown every week that we’ve put him back there,” Rosburg said. “You see things in the returns that you like to see. This last week I saw him split the middle on one of our returns, and [if] we were able to get the safety he might have made a big play. But we weren’t. The safety made a good play and got him down, but I like the fact that he went vertical and I like the fact that we still had the ball when the play was over.
“And I like his spirit. He practices hard, he’s an exciting guy, the guys like blocking for him, and we’re going to give him another shot this week.”