Ravens number one receiver Anquan Boldin will miss at least the next two games with a partially torn meniscus. Boldin is not having one of his best years but his presence and leadership on the field will be sorely missed by Baltimore. With the departure of Derrick Mason and Todd Heap in the off season Joe Flacco was left with Anquan and a stable of new receivers to work with in 2011. Flacco has found ways to make due carrying his team to a 10-4 record and Boldin has become his go to guy in many games when the pressure is on. The Ravens will need to find someone they can depend on to step up in key situations.
The first person that comes to my mind is second year tight end Dennis Pitta. Pitta is similar to Boldin on the field in many ways. He isn't going to blow anyone away with his speed but he is as sure handed as they come. Pitta has a unique way of contorting his body to box out defenders and make sure he is the one coming away with the ball. Of course Pitta is a tight end, not a wide out like Boldin but he is athletic enough to line up wide as well. Pitta is able to create mismatches with corners and safeties because of his size. At 6'4" 245 pounds Pitta can be dangerous in the red zone as well, out-jumping defenders and using his big body to out-muscle smaller corners.
Baltimore is deep at many positions but wide receiver is not one of them. Number two receiver Torrey Smith has had a very nice rookie season. I don't think to many people knew he would catch on this quick and make the entire NFL look slower in the process. He will have to step up and keep doing what he has been. Torrey has got to just keep his cool and keep making plays when his number is called. He cannot try and overcompensate for the loss of Boldin. That is the perfect way for a rookie to try and do too much and end up creating a turn-over.
Ed Dickson should be handled the same as Torrey. It would be best for Baltimore to try and keep the offense as much intact as it usually is, without putting too much pressure and attention on one particular player.
The next man up will be Lee Evans. It is officially time for us to see what Evans can and can't do on the field this year. Evans is the only healthy wide receiver with any prior NFL experience on the Ravens roster and Flacco needs to develop some sort of chemistry with him before the playoffs start. On the season Evans has four catches for 74 yards with a long of 32. I don't think those are the numbers the Ravens were envisioning when they traded away a fourth round pick to Buffalo for him. In his defense he has been injured for most of the season, an injury the Ravens seem to have traded for as well.
Since Evans return he has not exactly set the world on fire. We do not see the great down the field separation that we saw from him in the preseason. I remember in Buffalo Lee Evans was a big play receiver and torched the Ravens in Baltimore last year. It could be that the Ravens just have a set game plan with only so many plays and because of Evans absence and the emergence of Torrey Smith he has not had the opportunity to get the ball thrown his way very often. Or, it could be that the injury has slowed him and he is no longer able to get open and make plays, and the Ravens know it.
No matter who it is that steps up in Boldins absence we will learn a lot about this team over the next two games. We will also learn a lot about Lee Evans and what he will bring to the table down the road for Baltimore. Will he be the next Donte Stallworth?