Jenkins and Frost vying to kick off for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS - This much is certain about the Baltimore Ravens' special teams units.<p> The Ravens remain unlikely to deviate from their plan of having Derrick Frost and J.R. Jenkins compete to become the kickoff specialist in training camp.<p> And special teams coach Gary Zauner said the Ravens will definitely designate one roster spot for that job with a possible eye on other clubs' cuts.<p>

Veteran Matt Stover will concentrate solely on kicking field goals, and punter Dave Zastudil will keep working on his technique after a strong rookie campaign.

Originally, the plan was to experiment with Zastudil on kickoffs to possibly not have to expend a spot on the 53-man roster. That plan was scrapped so as to not interfere with Zastudil's punting motion.

"Matt will not be doing it and we're not going to blow Dave's leg out," Zauner said. "Whoever it is, the guy has got to have a big leg. We're not going to pay a guy the minimum wage and not have a guy be able to kick to the goal line.

"Brian Billick and Ozzie Newsome have told me for eight months to find a kickoff guy and that's what we're going to do."

Last season, the Ravens' opposition averaged 22.6 yards on 67 kickoff returns, including one 94-yard return for a touchdown. Short kickoffs hindered that coverage.

In several games, the Ravens' defense was faced with an average field position of the 30-yard line. In a 37-34 loss to Pittsburgh to close the season, the Steelers began their six drives after a kickoff from an average spot of their own 37-yard line.

"It has got to be better than that," Zauner said. "That's all I know."

Jenkins is a kicker from Marshall who honed his skills this spring in NFL Europe after being assigned to the Berlin Thunder. He was on the roster last fall and kicked off in seven games before suffering a leg injury that forced Stover back into handling kickoffs.

"They expressed to me that they want to keep a kickoff specialist again and hopefully that will be me," Jenkins said. "I think Europe helped me a lot and I got that confidence back. I'm a lot healthier than last year and that experience helps a lot."

Frost is a punter by trade, but is no threat to beat out Zastudil, who averaged 41.6 yards last season after being drafted in the fourth round. Frost punted collegiately at Northern Iowa and was released by the Philadelphia Eagles this spring.

"It's going to be a two-man race between those guys," Zauner said. "Or, when teams cut their roster I'll know of about five or six guys that I like who went to training camps. It's wide open for now."

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times.

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