Lost so far this season for the Bucs has been the play of their special teams. To say that unit has underperformed would be generous. Michael Koenen is averaging 42.5 yards per punt. That's last in the league. The team gives up the fifth most yards per punt return at 12.9. Of course no other game illustrated the Bucs issues covering punts then in Atlanta a couple weeks back. Devin Hester returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown and averaged 22.7 yards a return in that game.
I bring this up today because the Bucs have another challenge this Sunday in Ravens return man JaCoby Jones. Jones has been one of the very best at returning punts and kicks in his career. He has returned eight touchdowns in his career and was even selected to the Pro Bowl in 2012. The Ravens thought so highly of Jones that they signed him to a four year, $12 million deal in the offseason. Now whether it's the pressure of living up to that contract or something else, Jones has struggled this year.
Against the Colts last Sunday, Jones misplayed a punt and turned the ball over. The Ravens coaching staff decided a change needed to be made and inserted Lardarius Webb to return the final two punts in that game. Word out of Baltimore is that teams are kicking away from Jones more frequently this year.
There is no question this has been an off season for the former Pro Bowler. He's dropping too many passes (5) on offense and as a result is trying to make up for it in the return game. That hasn't happened.
Ravens associate head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg still believes in Jones as a returner though. "We're going to give him more opportunities to do that because we know he's an elite runner. But to be an elite returner, you have to have the ball in your hands. We need to get that fixed, and give him an opportunity to run with it."
Jones might be struggling this year as a returner. He hasn't been a threat in the passing game either. If I'm the Bucs this Sunday, I kick the ball away from Jones. Why give him a chance to impact a game? I say let him stay in his slump for at least another week.
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