Many were ready to deem Asa Jackson the winner of the Ravens’ return competition after his 103-yard kickoff return late in the first half of Saturday’s 31-13 loss to Washington.
But then the fourth-year cornerback committed the cardinal sin of fumbling a punt in the fourth quarter after electing not to call for a fair catch with coverage bearing down on him. The gaffe immediately earned Jackson an animated lecture from special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg on the sideline.
To no surprise, the turnover holds more weight in the evaluation process than the explosive return.
“The biggest concern I have with those guys is dropping the ball,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Asa made a bad decision, and he knows that. You have to fair catch that. That kind of hang time, you have to fair catch it. Obviously, dropping the kickoff that we had was not great either.”
For now, the job appears to be Jackson’s by default with second-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro currently injured, but you still can’t help but wonder if this year’s return specialist isn’t yet on the team. It will be interesting to see if any teams cut loose a veteran returner for a cheaper and younger alternative when final cuts are made next weekend.
** I haven’t been overly impressed with Jeremy Butler’s performance in the preseason, but the young receiver was a member of the starting kickoff and kick return units on Saturday night, a good sign for his chances of making the 53-man roster.
Butler caught four passes for 32 yards against Washington, but three of those receptions came in the second half against the Redskins reserves. He hasn’t shown consistent ability to gain separation against reserve defensive backs, making you doubt whether he can make an impact as an NFL receiver.
With Campanaro and rookie Breshad Perriman currently sidelined with injuries, the Ravens are more likely to keep an extra receiver, which is good news for both Butler and sixth-round rookie Darren Waller.
** It was interesting to note that rookie running back Terrence Magee played 15 offensive snaps and carried four times for 13 yards while second-year back Fitz Toussaint only saw duty on special teams on Saturday night.
The Ravens are likely to carry an extra running back with Lorenzo Taliaferro sidelined with a knee injury for at least the next few weeks, and Saturday indicated that Magee is garnering strong consideration as the temporary No. 3 back behind starter Justin Forsett and rookie fourth-rounder Buck Allen.
** Speaking of Allen, I can forgive his underwhelming rushing performance (24 yards on 12 carries) due to the injured state of the offensive line, but his goal-line fumble in the closing seconds of the first half didn’t sit well with Harbaugh and was inexcusable when you’re a step away from the end zone.
“It’s just not possible to put runners out there that fumble the football,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have other opportunities and chances going forward, and I really believe he’s going to be a very good player. But, he’s going to have to learn from that.”
Allen is going to receive plenty of carries with Taliaferro out, but there’s no quicker way to find your way to Harbaugh’s doghouse than to put the ball on the turf.
** The run of injuries on the defensive line was the most disturbing development from Saturday’s game, but Kapron Lewis-Moore improved his chances of making the 53-man roster with a solid outing.
It’s been a quiet summer for the 2014 sixth-round pick who missed each of the last two seasons with injuries, but he played the run well, making four tackles in 28 defensive snaps against the Redskins. If any of the injuries to Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, and DeAngelo Tyson linger into the start of the regular season, Lewis-Moore may find himself on the favorable side of the roster bubble.
** I’ll spare you another negative review of backup Matt Schaub’s performance on Saturday, because it was obvious if you watched the game.
However, I’d be interested to see how the Ravens would handle their backup quarterback spot if Schaub weren’t already guaranteed $2 million this season. To be clear, no one should confuse Bryn Renner with the next Frank Reich, but the young quarterback has played well enough this summer to garner a spot on the practice squad.
** Rookie outside linebacker Zach Thompson only played 13 defensive snaps, but he was a member of the starting kickoff team, which is something to keep in mind in the final week of the preseason before final cuts next Saturday.