Photo Courtesy: USA Today

Willie Snead Emerging as Punt Return Option

August 24, 2018 - 10:27 am

By Joe Schiller

The Baltimore Ravens are in search of a starting punt returner and Monday’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts provided no clarity. Both second-year wide receiver Tim White and undrafted rookie wide receiver Janarion Grant fumbled on returns – a discouraging sign for two of the leading in-house candidates.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg spoke this week saying, "The most important thing a returner does for us is secure the ball … In both of those situations, [White and Grant> needed to lock the ball down and they didn't. Hopefully the lesson's been learned."

Michael Campanaro was a special teams ace at the position for the Ravens last season, leading the AFC in punt return yards but Rosburg has yet to find a viable replacement at this point.  

Grant has arguably displayed a stronger preseason to this point but the Rutgers product has yet to fully prove himself as a receiver among a crowded group. It may be difficult for the Ravens to justify a spot on the 53-man roster solely for special teams contributions. Those are few and far between.

The struggles of the two young returners have opened up the door for Willie Snead. He signed a two-year, $10.4 million contract as a free agent with the Ravens this offseason and is expected to be one of Joe Flacco’s top receiving options. Snead has minimal return experience throughout his professional career but seems to be putting in the work as it could become a reality.

Special teams are still crucial and field position is key. The Ravens led the NFL in average starting field position last season and will hope to find similar production from the return game this season.

Grant and White won’t be written off with still two preseason games left to play but if ball security continues to be an issue, Rosburg and the Ravens may not have a choice but to go with a player like Snead.