Ravens want their returners to be more than specialists

The Baltimore Ravens aren't saying who is going to replace Jacoby Jones as their primary returner this year. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, however, might have revealed why Jones is no longer with the team.

"My personal philosophy is I don’t want just a return specialist," Rosburg said this week. "That’s not enough value to the roster. It doesn’t help the team enough. Whatever way we work out with the roster -- whether it is one guy doing one and playing on offense and another guy doing another and playing on defense -- as long as they are doing everything they can in a multiple number of ways to help our team, then I’ll be just fine with it.”

Jones was one of two players to rank in the top 10 in both kickoff and punt returns last season, and he returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown in Pittsburgh last season. The problem was Jones only impacted the game as a returner. His bad hands (five drops on 16 passes thrown his way) made him a liability as a receiver, and the Ravens apparently want more out of that role (and more out of a $2.5 million player).

When it comes to the Ravens' next returner, Rosburg is keeping an open mind, giving a long list of candidates: cornerback Asa Jackson, wide receiver DeAndre Carter and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. He even mentioned two starters, cornerback Lardarius Webb and wide receiver Steve Smith.

"When you are trying to win games, you’ll do whatever it takes to win games," Rosburg said. "Having said that, when you’ve got a starting corner and a starting wide receiver, you’d rather not have those guys do it on an every down basis because you’ve got to divvy up the work. We need a guy to come through for us so that doesn’t happen. That’s my view.”

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro is another candidate, but he's out until training camp with a quadriceps injury. That's plenty of time for Campanaro to win the job.

The Ravens aren't planning to make a decision at returner until later in the summer. How the returners fare in training camp will determine the number of chances for each player, and how the returners fare in games will determine who replaces Jones.

"I like to see guys in games," Rosburg said. "Practice is practice. It’s really valuable, it is important, you see what skills guys have, you watch them play and you get a feel for them. Having said that, there’s nothing like game reps -- handling a crowd, handling a game situation is really important. So we’ll make the decision based on who is best in preseason.”

What's also important is how the player can help the team outside of special teams.