The Ravens have had a Jacoby Jones sized hole at the returner position since the former fan favorite wideout left town after a prolific few years at the position. Since then, they’ve attempted to replace him with players such as Michael Campanaro, who flashed promise but was never able to truly lock down the job.
Now with the former seventh-rounder in Tennessee, they’ll have to continue looking for a starter at the position they’ve been strong at historically. One candidate to be that starter is wide receiver Tim White, a second year player out of Arizona State.
White was a standout in camp as a rookie last season, and after suffering a season ending injury following a strong preseason effort, he returns to a much deeper receiver room in Baltimore thanks to a productive offseason from Ozzie Newsome. As a result, the path to making the roster is crowded, and White was hardly considered a favorite to make it as a former undrafted player a few months ago.
That was then, this is now, and ever since the pads have come on, White has again been generating buzz as a guy who could sneak onto the team as a rotational receiver/return man thanks to some strong performances in practice. So what does he have to do to officially stake his claim?
Well, first of all, keep practicing well. The other route is by locking down that returner position, and making the most of his chances when the lights come on in the preseason games.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley sees this happening, predicting White will not only make the team, but have a big season at returner for Baltimore:
“White, who went undrafted out of Arizona State a year ago, is the front-runner for the competition at returner, and the Ravens have a history at developing impact special teams players. Over the past five seasons, they’ve had five different punt returners. But they’ve ranked in the top 10 in four of those years.”
The fact that he states White is the front runner here is a good indication the 24-year-old could in fact be ready to make a real impact. The past several seasons saw an open competition at returner due to Campanaro’s inability to stay healthy.
If White can maintain the starting spot, this certainly gives him an inside track to making the final 53. This starts with a strong preseason in which he gives the coaching staff no choice but to keep him around.
There is a decent likelihood of that due to emphasis John Harbaugh has placed on special teams, and Jerry Rosburg’s ability to manufacture production in the return game. This is all without even mentioning White’s abilities as a receiver which haven’t gone unnoticed in camp either.
Teammate Michael Crabtree made sure to note White among the pass catchers that have been slept on by the media so far:
“We’ve got some talented receivers in the room — young guys, older guys, even like Chris and those guys, Tim, guys that you sleep on, who can play ball,” Crabtree said.
With Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, and Chris Moore, you have four locks to make the team. Beyond them, Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley were just drafted and are likely to be on the squad come September as well, which totals out to six receivers.
This leaves White battling it out with players such as Janarion Grant, Jaelon Acklin, and former first rounder Breshad Perriman, all of whom will be trying to prove they deserve a spot on the team. The main difference separating him from them is his value in the return game, which could make him the uncommon seventh receiver, or maybe even make him the sixth guy above of one of the aforementioned rookies for the roster.
Before he does though, he’ll have to make good on this promise in the coming month of practice and preseason games. It all kicks off in the Hall of Fame game, so be sure to keep an eye out for White amidst the festivities when the Ravens and Bears square off to finally start to the 2018 preseason.