John Harbaugh said on Monday that the Ravens are “looking for our kick returner” after David Reed lost two fumbles on kickoff returns in the first half of Sunday evening’s 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Reed, who was also flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second quarter, was replaced by Chris Carr and Torrey Smith on kick returns after the two fumbles directly led to Seahawks field goals.
“You can’t turn the ball over. That’s job one,” the Ravens head coach said. “David knows that. It’s something that he works on very hard just like all our guys do. You can’t turn the ball over, especially in a kickoff return situation. That’s just not something that we’re going to be able to do and expect to win football games.”
Reed ranked first in the NFL in yards per kickoff return (29.3) in 2010 and scored on a 103-yard kickoff return in the 34-28 win over the Houston Texans. He is averaging 28.6 yards per return this season, but has fumbled three times in the past two games (the Ravens recovered Reed’s one fumble against the Pittsburgh Steelers).
Harbaugh said his preference would be to have cornerback Lardarius Webb return kickoffs. But Webb, who scored on a kickoff return in his rookie season, is a starter on defense and the team’s primary punt returner.
“Probably Webb’s our best guy if you look at it,” he said. “[But] you can’t put too much on any one guy’s plate.”
Reed’s recent issues with fumbles haven’t been the only concern for the Ravens on special teams. Their coverage teams allowed a kickoff return touchdown to Joe McKnight of the New York Jets and they gave up an 82-yard punt return touchdown to Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals.
“I think we’re young there,” Harbaugh, who was the special teams coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles for 10 seasons, said of the Ravens’ play on special teams this season. “That’s not an excuse because you’ve got to be young there, you’ve got to train guys up. But there’s a lot of learning going on there right now. If you dig in and look at it very closely, we’re actually getting a lot better. But it’s not showing up in the results.”
Harbaugh also expressed disappointment with Billy Cundiff, who missed field goals from 50 and 52 yards in Sunday’s loss. Cundiff, a Pro Bowl kicker a year ago, has now missed four field goals in the past four games.
Cundiff made two 58-yard field goals in pregame warm-ups, which is why Harbaugh was comfortable with attempting the long tries. But Harbaugh said the misses could affect his decision-making going forward.
“It could, especially with the weather getting a little tougher,” Harbaugh said. “The operation has everything to do with it. It’s a team effort out there, the three guys in the operation and the protection. There were some things in there that made it a little tough on him. That’s part of it. That was disappointing.”
After Cundiff’s first miss, the Seahawks scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. “Those kind of long kicks are never easy and you really don’t want to give up that field position … which is a fair point,” Harbaugh said.