Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome went to work on the team’s wide receiver unit this offseason. He released Jeremy Maclin, and let Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro sign with the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans, respectively. To replace them, the team signed John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and restricted free agent Willie Snead. With three players who’ve had success in the past, this core looks to help out quarterback Joe Flacco and this offense. Question is, who will make the most impact and lead the unit?
From reports coming out of OTAs and minicamp, all three are forming a good chemistry with Flacco, but Crabtree is hoping to be the number one threat. The Oakland Raiders released him, and Baltimore immediately snatched him up in controversial fashion. The Ravens previously signed Ryan Grant but the deal was voided due to a failed physical. Baltimore would then sign Crabtree, and it raised eyebrows from national media pundits who still question what really happened with Grant three months later. Nevertheless, Crabtree is here, and he brings his touchdown scoring ability with him.
Over the last three years, Crabtree has scored 25 touchdowns which is ahead of star players such as Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Rob Gronkowski during that span. Crabtree has impressed during the spring workouts, and it has led ESPN’s Jamison Hensley to express the “effortlessness” it takes for Flacco and Crabtree to connect on the practice field. Flacco has even called Crabtree “the guy” and complimented how the receiver gets himself open.
While Crabtree aims to be Flacco’s go-to-guy, Snead provides his value out of the slot and on third down. Snead was a reliable target for quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans from 2015-2016. He notched 141 receptions, 1,879 yards, and seven touchdowns in those two years. In 2017, Snead saw his role reduced thanks to injuries and suspension, while only grabbing eight receptions. Baltimore signed the 25-year old Snead in hopes that regains his 2015 and 2016 form.
So far, Snead has made a great impression in practice. BaltimoreRavens.com’s Garrett Downing described Snead as a popular target for Flacco. That connection is extremely important because the Ravens lacked a receiver who could catch passes over the middle last year after injuries to tight end Dennis Pitta and Campanaro. Snead looks to bring that aspect back to the offense and revitalize his career after a lost year.
After the Ravens decision to move on from Wallace, Baltimore took a chance on Brown to add the speed capable of taking the top off the defense. Brown has a lot of talent, but his career has been mired with injuries over the last couple of seasons. After posting a 1,000 yard and seven touchdown campaign in 2015, Brown was hampered by hamstring issues the following season despite playing in 15 games. Brown missed six games last year with injuries to his quadriceps, toe, and back. Just last week, he missed a practice in minicamp due to a tweaked knee but returned the next day. Brown also has a sickle cell trait that was revealed two years ago.
Health will be the ultimate question heading into training camp for Brown. If he is healthy, he can bring a vertical dimension and quickness to the passing game. His speed matches well with Flacco’s big arm. Health will be important for both of them. Brown has his injuries, and Flacco missed all of training camp last year with a herniated disc.
The Ravens are betting on all three receivers to play a role in the offense. Especially since Baltimore didn’t pick a receiver until day three of the draft with Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley. The downside is they might not be long term answers, Brown isn’t guaranteed to be back next season thanks to his one-year deal. The trio is competing hard, and making a positive impression so far.
Who will have the biggest impact this season?
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