In my interview with Tony Lombardi of Ravens24x7.com, we discussed the Ravens disappointing punt return game. The Ravens have seen a number of their players back to return punts, but have only recorded return yards from Tom Zbikowski and Chris Carr. Neither has set themselves apart and the Ravens have averaged just 5.7 yards per return with a long of 20 yards.
With Zbikowski’s injury, the Ravens threw both Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb back to receive kicks against the Bills before their bye week. Both players are coming off serious injuries and Webb was even told by coach John Harbaugh that he shouldn’t expect to be returning punts this season as a special teams play ended his year in 2009. Neither player recorded an actual return in the game.
This week, the Ravens hope to have back wide receiver Donte Stallworth, who Baltimore seemed to be grooming for the return job in the preseason before a broken foot set him back. In fact, Stallworth looked to be the number four receiver behind Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, prior to the Ravens trading Clayton and signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Another Raven that has thrown his hat in the punt return ring was Derrick Mason. According to Ravens Insider on BaltimoreSun.com, Mason is “seriously offering his services to the Ravens coaching staff.”
“I’ve done it before, and I was very good at it,” said Mason, who went to his first Pro Bowl in 2000 as a member of the Tennessee Titans after leading the NFL in punt return yards (662) and ranking second in average yards on kick returns (27.0). “Not taking away from the guys that are doing it, but if you feel you can help the team in some aspect, you mention it to a coach. And if I need to go out there – and I’m not saying that I’m going to break a long one each time – and you get block the guys on the outside, I can get some yards. I’m going to hold onto the ball and hopefully make good decisions on the back end.”
Personally, I hope Stallworth is able to cure all the Ravens issues in the punt return game because I hate the thought of throwing Mason, Webb or Reed back there. What do you think?