For the first time in franchise history or at least recent memory, the Baltimore Ravens have an abundance of playmakers and quality depth at wide receiver. One of those players is second-year pro James Proche. He has come on strong as of late and shouldn’t see his playing time diminished as more heralded pass catchers return from injury in the coming weeks.
The Ravens activated third-year pro Miles Boykin and rookie Rashod Bateman from short-term injured reserve two weeks ago and are expected to have both available for their Week 5 primetime matchup with the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. Bateman was the first of their two selections in round one of this year’s draft and Boykin has been a solid starter in his first two years in the league thanks in large part to his run blocking.
Both players have looked and moved well over the last two weeks according to reports. Ravens fans are at a fever pitch in anticipation of Bateman’s NFL debut that will likely come against the Colts, but that doesn’t mean Proche should go back to be being a sparsely used afterthought.
While Bateman and Boykin have been gearing up to return to action, Proche has been stepping up and showing out. The 2020 sixth-round pick out of SMU has been a strong presence in the slot and a reliable target for Lamar Jackson in the passing game when he’s needed to pick up chunks of yards to move the chains.
Proche is coming off the most productive game of his career to date, he recorded five receptions for 74 yards on six targets in the team’s 23-7 win over the previously undefeated Denver Broncos. He likely began gaining more of Jackson’s trust the week before against the Detroit Lions when he matched his catch total from his rookie year with an impressive snag and toe-drag swag that picked up 29 yards just before halftime.
James Proche with the Tony Toe Tap pic.twitter.com/F477gkWBRI— ramey (@HoodieRamey) September 28, 2021
Proche had been making plays in a Ravens uniform long before he recorded his first few catches of the regular season. He was the most consistent player and arguably the brightest star in training camp where he made highlight-reel plays on a daily basis.
James Proche is practicing his way right into a roster spot— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) August 3, 2021
What a catch pic.twitter.com/YRVE0AHzoG
“No surprise there, he’s been doing it in training camp, and he did it in preseason games,” Harbaugh said. “He did it when we went down to Carolina. He started doing it whenever he got into games. Five catches and seventy-four yards. He is going to be mad about the one he didn’t catch, the shoe-string type catch. He had a big-time game and a key third-down conversion late in the game. I am very proud of him.”
Proche was happy for the position group as a whole after his breakout game and believed that they had made a statement to the rest of the league that they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Many fans and pundits had doubts about the unit coming into this season but he knows that their ability to rise to the occasion and prove the doubters wrong will help the offense become even harder to defend.
“It was a collective, just always doing our job, and you love to see that because later down the road they’ve got to respect us now,” Proche said. “All the talk on Twitter and all that nonsense, they’ve got to respect us now. It’s going to help the run game, and the defense is going to help everything. Everybody is doing their job.”
While the Ravens have been able to find a nice run-pass balance through the first four games of this season, they are still a run-first offense at their roots. Targets will be even fewer far in between if they get into a better groove with the ground game. Nevertheless, Proche should still continue to see the field regularly and have a fair share of targets come his way. He is an ascending player that needs to be utilized going forward regardless of who returns to the fold in a suddenly crowded receiver room.