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Return job still up for grabs

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Return job still up for grabs

The Ravens top kickoff returner last year was benched for a month after some problems with fumbles, and then ended the season on injured reserve. His top backup is now in Indianapolis. The top punt returner is also the top cornerback, so his role on special teams could be limited.

Thats one reason why the Ravens entered this offseason with major questions in the return game, part of a special teams unit that performed well below coach John Harbaughs expectations last season.

The Ravens seemingly made a major move to upgrade the return game when they signed former Texans wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Though he had one very costly turnover on a return against the Ravens in the playoffs last season, Jones ranked 13th in the league in punt returning last year with an average of 10.6 yards and one touchdown. He also has 64 kickoff returns for a 23.3-yard average and one touchdown over his five-year career.

Speaking to the media at training camp on Saturday, Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said he could see Jones serving as a dual return threat, though that would depend on his role in the offense.

I think we'll see how much he is playing on offense, Rosburg said. If he is playing a lot, he may be doing both, but he may not be doing every rep with both.

The Ravens primary kick returner last season, David Reed, averaged 29.7 yards over 18 returns. But he lost the job for a month after fumbling three times in a two-week span. Then he suffered a season-ending knee injury on Christmas Eve and remains sidelined as he recovers from surgery.

Lardarius Webb handled most of the Ravens punt return duties last year, averaging 10.0 yards, with one touchdown. But with his role increasing in the secondary, the Ravens seem less enthused about putting their top shutdown corner on the return team.

Webb, though, said he would like to be on the punt return unit occasionally, and Rosburg said Saturday that, I envision Lardarius being one of our returners.

The preseason, though, always gives lesser-known players the chance to make their mark. LaQuan Williams saw action in both return roles last preseason, though that didn't translate to much action during the regular season.

A couple of rookies to watch this preseason are receiver Deonte Thompson, who has burner speed, and rookie cornerback Asa Jackson, a record-setting return man at Cal Poly.

During the preseason, Rosburg said, "You're going to find a lot of those young returners with opportunities. It gets to the point of the game in preseason in the second half and then, 'OK, it's your turn. Go show us what you can do.'

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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