With training camp now in full swing and the calendar turning to August, we’re quickly approaching the start of the 2020 NFL regular season.
Amidst an offseason unlike any other, it’s easy to forget what’s at stake for the Ravens this season and where individual players stand heading into the season. As such, we’ll examine each player’s outlook for the 2020 campaign on a position-by-position basis.
Up next is the all-important position of wide receiver, one of the youngest groups on Baltimore’s depth chart. Two returning starters are entering their second seasons, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, who are joined by a pair of rookies in Devin Duvernay and James Proche.
The core is rounded out by Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore and Jaleel Scott.
All eyes will be on Marquise “Hollywood Brown in 2020. The rising sophomore receiver has been billed as a surefire breakout candidate after re-shaping his body in the offseason and having a surgically-placed screw removed from his foot, which hampered his health throughout the entirety of his rookie campaign.
Despite playing at less than 100% in 2019, Brown demonstrated the talent and upside that prompted the Ravens to select him in the first round of last year’s draft. There were some highs and lows throughout the regular season but he began and ended the season on particular high notes.
Brown added roughly 20 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason and spent much of the summer honing in on his chemistry with Lamar Jackson. It’s hard not to be excited about the prospects of his sophomore season.
If he can stay healthy and consistently remain on the field, Brown could blow his production from last year out of the water.
Willie Snead IV
After signing a one-year contract extension back in October, Willie Snead IV enters the 2020 season as the Ravens’ starting slot receiver for the third straight year.
In Greg Roman’s new-look offensive system last season, Snead saw his role in the Ravens passing attack decrease. When comparing his production in 2018 to 2019, Snead’s targets, receptions and receiving yards were roughly cut in half. He also played over 100 less snaps than the year prior.
At the same time, though, Snead played a much more prominent role in the red zone, as he caught a career-high five touchdown receptions — compared to just one the year prior. His yards-per-catch average also remained steady. just a shade under 11.0 YPC.
Snead’s biggest calling card remains his ability to convert first downs. In 2019, 20 of his 31 receptions on the season resulted in first-down conversions. This niche, on top of being the most experienced receiver on the roster and a potent run-blocker, will ensure Snead sees ample playing time.
Each of the Ravens incoming rookie receivers primarily played in the slot in college, though, so Snead could have added competition for snaps this season.
While not nearly at the same level as the hype surrounding Marquise Brown, many are also excited about the outlook of fellow rising sophomore Miles Boykin.
Boykin started all but five games for the Ravens last season but played a very minimal role as a pass-catcher. He was targeted only 22 times on the year and caught 13 passes for 198 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Where he did stand out, though, was in the blocking department. There were a handful of moments throughout the season where Boykin’s downfield blocking resulted in large gains and, in some instances, touchdowns for the likes of Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, and Gus Edwards (see Week 7 against the Texans).
While this is a positive, the Ravens’ offense could reach a new level if Boykin emerges as a viable and reliable WR2 this season. He possesses all of the physical and athletic attributes to do so, it’s a matter of him being aggressive and consistent.
The Ravens did not add another outside or “X” wideout in the draft nor free agency, which suggests they are high on Boykin’s prospects heading into Year 2.
While the the starting trio at wide receiver remains the same heading into 2020, the player with the best chance to shake up the depth chart is likely Devin Duvernay.
Duvernay was selected by the Ravens in the third round of this year’s draft after a productive four-year collegiate stint with the Texas Longhorns. Duvernay broke out in a major way during his senior campaign, catching 106 receptions for nearly 1,400 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
For perspective, he caught more passes, recorded more yards and scored more times in 2019 than he did in the three seasons prior combined.
Duvernay isn’t the tallest receiver but has the tools to be successful in the slot at the NFL level. He’s quick, agile and tough after the catch, not to mention he’s demonstrated the ability to simply make plays with the ball in his hands.
Duvernay’s usage in the Ravens offense this season remains to be seen but Greg Roman could certainly get him involved in a variety of ways, including slants, jet sweeps, and bubble screens, just to name a few.
The Ravens traded up to select SMU’s James Proche at the tail end of the sixth round in the draft. Like Duvernay, Proche was one of the more productive receivers in all of college football last season.
Proche caught 111 receptions for 1,225 receiving yards and scored 15 touchdowns. He was only slightly less potent the year prior, and his career statistics through four years of play at SMU jump off the page: 301 catches, 3,494 receiving yards, 39 touchdown receptions.
While not heralded as a high-end NFL prospect heading into the draft, there are some tools to Proche’s game that could potentially make him a late-round steal.
Proche is a prototypical slot receiver. Like Duvernay, he’s extremely sure-handed and has a larger catch radius than his size would suggest. Unfortunately for Proche, it’s difficult to foresee him making much of an offensive impact in 2020.
He’s likely fifth in the pecking order at the position but is the third-best slot man on the depth chart behind both Snead and Duvernay. His best chance to get on the field is on special teams, an area where he could shine.
Proche is already in the driver’s seat to begin the season as the Ravens’ leading punt returner and could very well return kicks, too, as he has experience doing both.
The longest-tenured wideout on the roster is Chris Moore, who the Ravens re-signed to a one-year deal in free agency.
Many thought Moore might step into a larger role in 2019 given the opportunity presented with John Brown and Michael Crabtree having departed. Instead, Moore posted his worst statistical season and never established a role in offense.
Moore played only 159 offensive snaps on the year and was targeted five times, catching three balls for 21 receiving yards.
His path to making the 2020 roster once again lies on special teams, where Moore was proven himself to be a contributor throughout his career. Moore’s ability as a “gunner” is valuable but just how much the Ravens value that will ultimately decide whether they want his services on the 53-man unit.
If Moore does manage to stick, the only foreseeable chance of him emerging as a pass-catcher would be in the event of an injury to a player above him on the depth chart. Even then, though, it’s a long shot.
After a strong training camp and preseason showing last summer, Jaleel Scott clawed his way into a spot on the 53-man roster. He’s looking to do so once again, except this time without the opportunity to showcase his skills in exhibition contests.
Entering his third career season, Scott has yet to establish himself as anything more than a young, athletic receiver with upside.
Scott brings more receiving potential to the table than Moore, although he does not have the benefit of a special teams resume. In 2019, Scott was a healthy scratch for the majority of the season and played only 17 total offensive snaps and 2 special teams snaps.
His combination of speed and size has always been intriguing but whether or not that remains enough to keep him on the depth chart remains to be seen.