Special Teams Analysis: Week 17
By Ted Carlson
December 26, 2008 9:47am CST
Thankfully, the Ravens seem to have found a legit punt returner in safety Jim Leonhard. He has produced gains of 46 and 23 yards in the last two games. Unfortunately, Yamon Figurs continues to struggle on kickoff returns, and we wish Ray Rice was healthy enough to take that job back. Anyway, the Jaguars coverage units are very strong, and the Ravens aren't expected to help in this area.
All the right moves
How the Ravens went from a 5-11 team to a playoff contender in 1 year
April 28: Jim Leonhard signed
After three seasons in Buffalo, Leonhard was not invited back by the Bills. He came to Baltimore on a two-day tryout, was signed right after the draft and has been making big contributions ever since. He became the starting strong safety when Landry was injured in Week 2, and has been the team's best punt returner.
The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2008 Ravens season
By Jamison Hensley | email@example.com
December 26, 2008 Best free-agent pickup: Arguments could be made for Pro Bowl special teams player Brendon Ayanbadejo and fullback Lorenzo Neal, but Jim Leonhard has stepped in for struggling punt returner Yamon Figurs to average 12.2 yards (sixth best in the NFL). He also replaced injured safety Dawan Landry to record 79 tackles (fifth best on the Ravens).
Ravens notebook: Injury ends Barnes' season
By Aaron Wilson, Times Staff Writer
RETURN GAME: Strong safety Jim Leonhard has made an impact as Dawan Landry’s replacement, ranking fifth on the defense with 79 tackles to go with one sack and one interception.
Leonhard has also made a big contribution in the return game returning 19 punts for a 12.2 average with a long return of 46 yards. He ranks sixth in the NFL in punt20return average.
"I think the best words to describe Jim Leonhard is he’s a football player," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "Put him out there at any task, he just finds a way of getting the job done. The thing that people are perhaps a little mistaken on is they look at Jim and they think he’s an overachiever.
"That guy is a good athlete. You don’t make plays as a punt returner at this level without having athletic ability. He’s got an ability to put his foot in the ground and cut off people. He reads blocks very well, and he’s been a real positive force for us."
Open For Business
2008 Baltimore Ravens MVPs
9) Jim Leonhard, S -- After quietly signing as a free agent following his tenure with the Buffalo Bills, Jim Leonhard has proven to be arguably the Ravens' best offseason acquisition. Starting in place of the injured Dawan Landry, Leonhard has filled in admirably, ranking in the top five on the team in tackles. Additionally, Leonhard's versatility has helped remarkably on special teams, often giving the Ravens prime field position when he has subbed in as a returner. Though his performance will create an interesting dilemma when Dawan Landry returns next season to reclaim his starting job, Jim Leonhard has given the Ravens' defensive secondary depth that even the elite teams in the NFL do not have this season.
Kick return game needs a jolt
By Dan Kolko on December 24, 2008 3:06 PM
Jim Leonhard has taken over for Figurs on punt returns game and has added a spark to that aspect of the special teams.
Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston
Baltimore Sun columnist answers readers' questions about the Ravens' 33-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys
10:36 AM EST, December 23, 2008
Adam, Parkville: Why do the Ravens continue to use Yamon Figurs to return kicks? He's clearly scared of getting hit because he stops running at the point of contact. Who do you think is the Ravens' best option right now to return kickoffs?
Mike Preston: Earlier in the season, you didn't want to risk a starter as a returner for fear of injury. But with one game left in the regular season, I'd gamble and have Jim Leonhard return punts, and hopefully Ray Rice is back to return kicks. Figurs is afraid to get hit because he was involved in some really vicious collisions early in the season when the Ravens failed to block for him. The blocking has gotten better but Figurs has lost his confidence.
Drew Forrester’s Blog
2008 Ravens tribute: “Harmony Reigns”
When Dawan Landry went down in week #2 with a season ending spinal injury, safety Jim Leonhard stepped in and did the job and then some, earning the respect of everyone with his week-in, week-out hard-nosed style of play.
THE GRAPEVINE: The buzz from One Winning Drive ~ December 23, 2008
News, notes and rumors about your Baltimore Ravens
By Tony Lombardi
Figurs’ performance has inspired many to beg for a replacement and the most popular candidate is Jim Leonhard particularly when his success as a punt returner is taken into consideration. But don’t look for the Ravens to cave in to the clamoring for Leonhard. The responsibilities of playing safety and returning punts is physically demanding enough particularly at this late juncture in the season.
Posted December 22nd, 2008 by Justin Blome
Special teams appears to be getting better and a lot of that has to do with Jim Leonhard. He has the focus and the guts to make those catches in traffic that Yamon Figurs would run from or fumble. Granted, Leonhard doesn’t have the speed that Figurs does but he has the hands, which to me is more important.