The Baltimore Ravens have been a ground-and-pound team for the majority of the franchise’s 20-year existence. They’ve had some stellar running backs over the years in Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice, to name a few.
What the Ravens had never had is a receiver that has been dominant. The best receivers in franchise history were all in the latter part of their careers. Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith were all 30-years old or older when they came to Baltimore. While each was productive in their own right, you have never associated them with the best in the NFL. Honestly, the most dynamic receiver the Ravens ever had on paper was Terrell Owens, but he never put on the uniform after basically forcing a trade to the Philadelphia Eagles.
For years the Ravens settled for mediocrity at the position. The days of hoping that Travis Taylor and Mark Clayton would pan out were dreadful times. Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander, the duo that the franchise begin with in 1996, both still rank in the top-10 in Ravens history for receiving yards and touchdowns.
Torrey Smith has the numbers as one of the franchise’s best, but no one considered him to be the No. 1 guy while in Baltimore. He was best served as the complimentary guy to stretch the defense when he and Boldin were together. To me, he was in the same class as Clayton and Taylor, guys who never lived up to the big-play hype that was expected of them.
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Some of those receiving corps were lousy to watch. You knew going into the game that the receivers would be a non-factor. That was fine back in the day, but the NFL has quickly shifted into a passing league. These days, you need a few guys to make plays on the outside.
Don’t expect that with the current makeup of the roster. This current group of receivers heading into Sunday might be the worst yet in Ravens history.
The Ravens are decimated with injuries. Michael Campanaro and Steve Smith Sr. are both out Sunday with back injuries. Campanaro was placed on season-ending injured reserve and Smith has four broken ribs. Breshad Perriman had surgery on his PCL last week and is out indefinitely. The top three wide outs heading into the season will all be out due to injury.
Baltimore will head into the game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday with Kamar Aiken, Darren Waller, Marlon Brown and the newly acquired Chris Givens. It’s also unlikely that the team will enter the game with just four receivers active. Look for either Jeremy Butler or Jeremy Ross get promoted from the practice squad to the active team at some point this week. Not exactly a group that is going to strike fear into a defense that features a shutdown cornerback in Joe Haden.
It will be interesting to see how the Browns play the Ravens passing game. With the lack of a playmaker on the outside, will Haden stay on one side of the field or will he shadow one of the Ravens wide outs. The addition of Givens gives Baltimore a deep threat that the team has been lacking without Perriman in the lineup, which could be the threat the Browns want to eliminate.
The addition of Givens should not be viewed as one that is going to drastically change the makeup of the receiving corps. There was a reason that Givens was not seeing the field often in St. Louis and I’m not buying that it was because Tavon Austin was on board. Austin has done very little in his short NFL career that would have merited Givens dropping from the 42 receptions in his rookie year to just 11 last season.
Givens is still a threat to stretch the field, but can Joe Flacco expect Aiken, Brown and Waller to create the necessary separation underneath to make an impact? They have yet to show that they are capable of doing so. Fortunate for the Ravens, they do have some tight end prospects that are capable of working the middle of the field. Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle each garnered votes for the team’s Rookie of the Year in our September Award winners. Crockett Gillmore was named the unsung hero through the first month of the season.
Flacco needs one of these guys to step up. Smith and Gillmore have been Flacco’s two favorite targets, and one is already ruled out, while the other is still unknown for Sunday. That is a lot to ask for from a group that does not feature a single player drafted earlier than the fourth round. In fact, if Butler is the one the Ravens decide to add to the roster, that would give Baltimore three undrafted receivers set to take the field.
Are Clayton and Taylor still capable of running a 4.5 40-yard dash? Call them up if so. That duo might be better than what the Ravens currently have on board.
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