The Baltimore Ravens brought in a lot of reinforcements on offense this offseason. They added more bulk to the big boys upfront and experience to the pass-catching arsenal at Lamar Jackson’s disposal, where more weapons were added and much needed upgrades were made.
One new addition that Ravens coaches are particularly excited about that isn’t getting talked about as much is veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The former Top-5 pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2014 signed a one-year deal to come to Baltimore after spending the last three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he looked good during OTAs and while he was impressed with his size and speed, one thing he took notice of and admires is that Watkins is a “student of the game”.
“He really wants to improve his game,” said Harbaugh. “He’s very much a stickler for the fundamentals and for pushing himself on the fundamentals; in and out of routes, angles, eyes, hands [and] hand placement. All that stuff has just been something that he works at.
He said Watkins asks a lot of questions of his coaches and constantly looks for ways and picks their brains for ways he can continue to improve. He’s still only 28-years old and Harbaugh is “very hopeful” that his best has yet to come.
Other coaches have taken notice of Watkins as well and like what they saw from him during OTAs too. While a lot has been made of his veteran leadership, Quarterbacks Coach James Urban is just as if not even more excited for what he brings the team from a playmaking standpoint.
“His reputation precedes him arriving here,” said Urban. “He’s a terrific player who’s played at a very high level in this league for a long time. Were it not for some unfortunate injuries, I think his numbers would be way up there.
“Any time you can involve a player like that and introduce him to what we’re trying to do with our passing game, I think it’s a blessing,” Urban continued. “Right now, we’re in the working phase, getting to know Sammy [and] Sammy is getting to know us and our offense. We’ll see how it progresses from there, but we’re working hard at it.”
The Ravens made a pair of notable coaching hires this offseason on the offensive side of the ball in Passing Game Specialist Keith Williams and Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin. Both are renown for their work in developing some of the best wideouts in the league and Watkins had preexisting relationships with both of them prior to joining the Ravens.
Martin will be working with him closely the most since he’s his position coach and their relationship dates back to the 2014 pre draft process when Martin was working at USC as the receivers coach/offensive coordinator.
“He came to ‘LA’ to work out and I was one of the coaches that he chose to train with. So, I had an opportunity to work with him and had the chance to build sort of a relationship with him,” Martin said. “Then just being familiar with who he was throughout his career, him being a Clemson grad and my son [Amari Rodgers] going to Clemson, him having played there.”
The familiarity between the two and the intangibles that Watkins brings, both from a playing and leadership standpoint, excited Martin when the Ravens brought him aboard. He’s followed him along his NFL journey and admires the refinements he’s made to his game over the years at every stop along the way.
“I’ve been very familiar with him, and I’ve really watched his game develop throughout his career at Buffalo and Kansas City,” Martin said. “I was really excited to have him join our team. For me to have the opportunity to coach him, having a veteran with his presence, his track record for making plays and being a speed route running-type of receiver and just seeing how he was going to fit in our system.”
After the second OTA session that was open to the media, Watkins said that he feels like the Ravens are a team that is ready to win it all. They are certainly primed to do so in 2021 with a nice blend of youth and veteran experience.
His big game pedigree, prowess for coming through in the clutch and influence on younger players, such as first-round rookie receiver Rashod Bateman and others, will be key in the team’s quest to bring a third title to Charm City.