The Ravens offense is off to a humming start this season, specifically in the passing game. Joe Flacco is on pace for a career-high in both yards and touchdowns. So too is wide receiver John Brown, who has proven to be an elite deep threat.
Baltimore currently ranks 10th in the NFL in total yards and 8th in passing yards. The Ravens are scoring 30.8 points per game, the 5th highest total In the league. While this success is great, it has helped mask a concerning issue.
Michael Crabtree, the team’s presumed number one receiver, has failed to meet expectations thus far in the season. Crabtree is currently tied for the league-lead in dropped passes with five on the season.
In the season opener against Buffalo, Crabtree had two drops in the first quarter alone. His slow start was largely forgotten, however, after he caught an impressive touchdown pass and finished with three catches for 38 yards.
Crabtree dropped another pass against the Bengals in Week 2. His performance against Denver was by far his best game of the season, as he caught seven passes for 61 yards. Instead of building upon it, however, he took a step backwards.
During last week’s matchup against the Steelers, Crabtree finished with just three catches for 29 yards, including two more ugly drops. As has been the case with almost all of his drops this season, Crabtree was open and the ball hit him right in the hands.
Given his physical attributes and reputation as a possession receiver, one would think this is merely a fluke start. Unfortunately, this trend is nothing new. Dropped passes have been an issue for Crabtree over the past several seasons.
In 2016, Crabtree led the NFL in drops with 13. No receiver in the league has more drops than Crabtree over the past four seasons, which is frustrating given his ability to make contested catches and score touchdowns.
The Ravens need the Michael Crabtree we saw in Week 1, who made this difficult grab in the back of the endzone look easy.
It's safe to say that Joe Flacco is having fun with his new trio of wide receivers. All three caught a touchdown yesterday, including this from Michael Crabtree!— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 10, 2018
Despite leading the team in targets this season, Crabtree has been overshadowed by John Brown’s stellar performance. Willie Snead IV, another newcomer at the position, also has more receiving yards on the same number of receptions.
Crabtree, who caught 25 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Raiders, has just one this season. At the quarter mark, he’s averaging just 46.0 yards per game and is on pace to drop 20 passes this season.
When the Ravens signed Crabtree to a three-year, $21 million dollar contract this offseason, he was expected to slot in as Flacco’s go-to target. Many, including myself, believed Crabtree could have a similar impact in Baltimore to that of Anquan Boldin.
Through four games, this has not been the case. His inability to consistently catch the football is becoming a glaring issue and could be costly late in the season.
As long as the offense continues to succeed, Crabtree’s production won’t make many headlines. However, the Ravens need more out of their marquee offseason acquisition.
Are you concerned by Crabtree’s slow start?
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