In the previous installments of this series, I covered the defensive greats of the Ravens. However, we now go to the other side of the ball, offense. The franchise may not be known for its offensive superstars, but Baltimore has surely produced some very good players on offense.
The Ravens aren't exactly known for their amazing receivers. In fact, many would argue that Baltimore has never had a true #1 WR, an elite, if you will. When Derrick Mason, Torrey Smith, Mark Clayton, Qadry Ismail, and Travis Taylor are your Franchise Career Receiving Leaders for wide receivers, that argument seems to hold up. While my favorite Ravens WR may not have been a true #1, he's #1 in my heart. I think he's everything a wide receiver should aspire to be, and the blueprint to play the position.
His name: Anquan Boldin. His strengths? Practically everything.
(without Boldin's block at the end on Weddle, Rice doesn't make it.)
Reliable Red-Zone Target/Catching in Traffic
(The Raiders were losing big time here, and Boldin gestured at the scoreboard here.)
When the Ravens traded their third and fourth round draft selections for him in 2010, they knew what they were getting in Boldin. A very solid, do-it-all guy who would deliver for the Ravens. During his time in Arizona, Boldin had impressed. In his rookie year alone, he set an NFL record for most receiving yards by a rookie in his first game (217), and holds the NFL record for most receptions in the first 26 games of an NFL career (157). He is also the fastest to record 300 career receptions (47 games). He finished his rookie season with 101 catches, 1,377 receiving yards, and eight TDs. Boldin was the only rookie selected to the 2004 Pro Bowl, and earned the AP & PWFA Offensive Rookie of the Year awards. His rookie season would set the tone for the rest of his career.
The following seasons were just as successful, over the next six seasons in Arizona, Boldin would have five 1,000+ yard seasons. He would receive two more Pro Bowl invites in '06 and '08, and achieved several other milestones during his Arizona tenure. In '07, he became the fastest player in NFL history to compile 400 career receptions. in '08, he became the fastest player in NFL history to have 500 receptions. Boldin was also a key in the Cardinals' playoff march to the Super Bowl that year.
When he arrived in Baltimore, he was the de-facto starting WR, alongside Derrick Mason. Boldin was a solid contributor, and a mainstay in the Baltimore offense for three seasons. His biggest contribution as a Raven was his play during the Super Bowl run. In the Wild Card round, he set a franchise record of 145 receiving yards in a postseason game. He was a reliable target for Joe Flacco through the whole run, as he posted 6 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl win. He was absolutely clutch in the Super Bowl win.
While his stats may not have been earth-shattering, as he never broke 1,000 yards once while with the Ravens, his play spoke for itself. You'd just have to watch him play to see what I mean. It's also plausible that he was a victim of the Ravens' offensive scheme, as he went to San Francisco and recorded two consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons, and received more targets/receptions than he ever did in Baltimore.
Anquan is my favorite Ravens receiver because his game is so complete. He did it all. He truly was a jack of all trades, the ideal wide receiver. It's a shame that he seems to be underrated among fans and the media. It looks like a certain young Ravens receiver could be following in his footsteps too, as my favorite current Raven WR, Kamar Aiken, has drawn comparisons to Boldin. I certainly see the similarities too. However, I don't think anyone can replace what Anquan did for us. He was truly a 'Raven'.