Welcome to the offseason film review. In this series I’ll be evaluating players that the Ravens already have on the roster, how they performed in 2017, what their strengths and weaknesses were and their outlook.
First on the list is wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who signed with the Ravens late in free agency after the Kansas City Chiefs cut him in June. Part of the reason the Chiefs cut him was his contract and his health, with the latter plaguing him this past season.
Maclin has played 16 games only twice in eight seasons, performing well below the expectations that were set for him.
12 games, 72 targets, 40 receptions, 440 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns.
Maclin still posses the big play potential that has made him a threat throughout his career. Ravens fans became acquainted with this fact when he scored a 48-yard touchdown on a slant in Week 1.
You’ll see in the play above he doesn’t have to do much based on the play design. The Bengals come with a zero blitz — blitzing six or more — and the play creates a pick which takes Maclin’s defender off of him. All Maclin has to do from this point is win a footrace.
Even when he wasn’t schemed open, Maclin still made opportunities for himself, taking advantage of how teams played him. In the play above Maclin uses his quickness to break on his route against a defender who’s playing off-man coverage. When he get’s a free release, he has the ability and savvy to find open holes and separate from the defense.
One of his biggest weaknesses seems to be that he doesn’t play through contact well at all. Whether it be contact off the stem of his route or after he has the ball, he tends to drop the ball as opposed to making the tough catches. This is a trait that has plagued him since his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The first play above is an example of that, but Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw the ball wide. The second play is one that has to be made. When you’re running across the middle, it comes with the expectation that you’re going to take a hit, especially if the route is underneath.
That being said, schematically I don’t believe the Ravens utilized Maclin’s strengths well enough. I’ve mentioned numerous times that he’s receiver that uses nuance and quickness to create separation and yards. The Ravens asked Maclin to become more of possession receiver with spot concepts — where a receiver camps in a spot or a zone. More often than not that’s what the coaching staff asked of Maclin.
In the clips I’ve shown, he’s been at his best with the ball in his hands with the ability to run after the catch. One of Marty Mornhinweg’s top priorities this offseason should be finding ways to incorporate more spacing within the Ravens’ offense to harness Maclin’s talent.
His best all around game came against Tennessee and not just from a statistical output perspective, but also how the gameplan incorporated him. Against the Titans, the Ravens got the ball out quickly, hitting Maclin in motion. His overall YAC output wasn’t very high, but they catered to his traits and it helped them move the ball up and down the field.
One other aspect that I found concerning was the timing between Flacco and Maclin. It’s important to remember that Maclin was signed at the end of OTAs and Flacco missed all of training camp with a back injury. Essentially, this meant that the two players didn’t play together until the regular season started, and it showed.
Despite the long touchdown catch against the Bengals, Maclin and Flacco never did seem to click on a consistent basis. In some of the spot concepts, Maclin would drift one way and Flacco would throw it another. The biggest indicator of the lack of chemistry appeared to be their timing on comeback routes. Either Maclin was late on the route or Flacco was early on the throw.
I think Maclin is a fine receiver that can still put up 1,000 yards receiving. He’ll turn 30 this offseason heading into the final year of his contract. It’s unlikely Maclin ever sees big money again, but if he wants one final decent contract he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy while posting an impressive season, seeing how he’ll be 31 when his contract expires.
As far as Maclin’s role with the Ravens is concerned, I no longer think he’s a WR1. His health leaves him as an unreliable option, but I do believe he’s a top-end WR2 that can be a top option with another legitimate threat. For what it’s worth, I do believe WR1s are a rare breed, and there are maybe ten legitimate ones in the NFL at any given time.
Maclin can be a dangerous threat if used correctly and if supplemented with the right talent. I don’t believe the Ravens necessarily need a WR1, but they do need to find consistent, reliable possession receivers, whether that be a tight end or wide receiver. If the Ravens can go about adding the right complementary pieces, they won’t need a dominant player on offense.