Training camp is just around the corner for your Baltimore Ravens and all the rumors will start to fly about who is impressive and in great shape and who has seemingly regressed in the off season. One of the biggest focal points for Ravens fans and media will be the Ravens receiving core. Most importantly the two spots behind starters Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin.
For the first time in a while the Ravens passing game showed signs of explosiveness with rookie receiver Torrey Smith and savvy veteran Anquan Boldin. Then in the playoffs, when Lee Evans was finally healthy and in game shape, the passing game looked even better. Tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta showed reasons for fans to be optimistic as they, together, more than filled the shoes of the departed Todd heap. The great thing about having two young tight ends that are capable of being every day starters in the NFL is that if one goes down you are virtually unscathed at the position. When Heap was in town the Ravens were constantly put in a bind when he would get hurt as there was not much in the receiving tight end department behind him.
Let's just focus on the receivers today. With training camp just around the corner opinions will start to fly about who should be the Ravens third and fourth receivers. A standout performance in training camp or preseason can earn a player a roster spot and even some in game playing time during the season if a they really impress. So let's take this opportunity to voice all of our opinions on the subject before things start to get crazy.
We all know that Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith will be the two starters come week one against the Cincinnati Bengals. The question is who will be the Ravens third and fourth receivers. Many things can factor in to the teams decision on who they will keep and who will be either let go, buried on the depth chart until they develop more at the NFL level or moved to the practice squad. In the very worst cases players may be let go outright.
For the receivers fighting for these last few available spots every little thing they do can either give them an edge or a disadvantage. If a player has something to offer on special teams that gives them an edge over a player of equal skills that does not play as well in that department. So players like Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams have that advantage right off the bat. They have all been explosive in the return game at some time or another.
Here is your list of Raven receiving hopefuls. Please let us know in the comment section below which two receivers you would want as your third and fourth receivers without having seen them in training camp yet.
We have all heard all about Jones' shortcomings in Houston over the years but he did have some very explosive plays as well. With his big body, blazing speed and intense physicality he could do a lot of damage on nickle and dime backs this season. There is no way he is covered by a safety or linebacker. Plus he is pretty much slated in as the Ravens punt returner so he has a leg up on the rest.
Once thought to be a shoe in as the next Ravens number three wide out, Reed is now very close to being handed his walking papers. Reed was expected to be the teams primary kick off returner and compete for the receiver position behind Lee Evans. In 2010 Reed was the NFL's leading return man in yards per return. Then in 2011 things fell apart for him. despite his promising speed and athleticism he never really caught on with the Ravens on offense and he fell apart as the kick off returner fumbling several key kickoffs that directly lead to losses in some cases. I think, at this point, Reed is a long shot to make the team on special teams, let alone as a wide receiver with so much young talent surrounding the position.
Doss was personally hand picked by quarterback Joe Flacco prior to the 2011 draft and the Ravens followed his recommendation by drafting him in the fourth round. Doss was also coming off of an injury and was not playing at 100% his first year with the Ravens. Needless to say, he didn't get much playing time and ended the season without one catch. The Ravens seem to have interest in Doss however and he will get his chance this season to prove he is capable of playing in the NFL.
Williams was an undrafted free agent that magically made the Ravens roster last season. He even played in a few games and registered four catches on the season. Not exactly eye popping numbers but just the fact that the team gave him the opportunity on game day shows how highly they think of him. Plus he was a stand out special teams player at Maryland. He played well on teams for the Ravens as well. Williams may be another one on the roster bubble. He will need a very good training camp and preseason in order to beat out the competition.
Streeter is the definition of raw talent. He is 5'5" with blazing speed and good strength. That being said he is a long way from being NFL ready. The Ravens could chose to throw him right to the wolves as they did with Torrey Smith. this, as crazy as it sounds could be the best way to handle the former Hurricane. Some player practice well and fall apart on game day and some just need that game day environment to get the best out of them. streeter had one good year at Miami but there were many contributing reasons for this. Let's not go through all of them but maybe some in game action is just what Streeter needs to find his way at the next level. He seems to play better when he is believed in by those around him. He could be a match up nightmare for third string corners.
Thompson could be this years version of La'Quan Williams.He was very impressive in team OTA's and reportedly runs a 4.2-40. That is something you just can not teach. However, everything can change once you put on pads. We will really get to see what Thompson is capable of over the next couple of weeks. For some reason I am really rooting for him to do well. Just the thought of another complete burner lined up opposite Smith really intrigues me.
Two of these players may have the opportunity for some real playing time this season if they catch onto the number three and four spots. Two more could make the roster if the Ravens decide to carry six wide outs in 2012. the rest, well, it's practice squad or free agency. So, who would you pick as the third and fourth receivers for your Ravens knowing only what you know now?