With three fumbles and a personal foul penalty in the past two games, Ravens kick returner David Reed is experiencing a sophomore slump.
Reed, who led the NFL in kick return average last season (29.3 yds), has been told by special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg that his services will not be needed on Sunday. The Ravens have turned to starting cornerback Lardarius Webb and rookie wide receiver Laquan Williams as their top options on the depth chart to return kicks versus the Bengals.
With Jimmy Smith slated to see more action this game, it makes no sense to expose a starting cornerback to the injury risk of returning kickoffs. Losing Webb (again) on a special teams play could be detrimental to the Ravens defense.
Even though Reed contributes in other aspects on the Ravens special teams squad, his role as a gunner is far less important and easy to replace. Listed as the fourth wide receiver on the team’s depth chart, Reed is rarely used and hasn’t recorded a reception all year.
Given the poor performance of this 2011 special teams unit, now would be a great time to give rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss a shot. Doss, the Ravens fourth-round draft choice out of Indiana, would be a great candidate to replace Reed on kickoffs and possibly permanently on the 46-player active game day roster.
At Indiana, Doss was fourth all time in kick return yards (1549) and averaged 24.8 yards per return in 2010. Given the fact that he has previous kick return experience and is a better wide receiver than Reed, if Lee Evans isn’t active this week, Doss deserves an opportunity to make a name for himself.
At the conclusion of the preseason, Doss arguably was the best wide receiver on the team not named Anquan Boldin. Unfortunately for Doss he was leapfrogged by Torrey Smith and LaQuan Williams, has only been active in four games so far this season and hasn’t caught a pass.
Doss shouldn’t be buried on the Ravens active roster by a player like Reed – who is hampered by a severe case of “Fumblitis” as well as the new NFL kickoff regulations. His services as a “gunner” on punts and a buried wide receiver on the depth chart can easily be replaced.
Arguing to play Tandon Doss over David Reed may be a moot point if Lee Evans is active versus the Bengals. The current injury report has Evans listed as “questionable,” and if he is active along with Reed moving forward, Sunday may provide the only chance Doss has left this season to make a favorable impression on the coaching staff in game action.