The Baltimore Ravens’ wide receiver depth chart has been much maligned since Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was traded during the draft and they have yet to sign a notable veteran free agent. Many pundits, analysts, and fans view the unit as arguably the team’s most glaring weakness and biggest remaining need to address.
However, the one player in the group that has been getting hyped up since Brown was traded and regularly receives votes of confidence from teammates, coaches and the outside media is Rashod Bateman.
The 2021 first-round pick is expected to see a significant increase in his role and volume of targets heading into year two. After a groin injury that knocked him out of training camp and required surgery delayed his NFL debut until Week 6, Bateman consistently flashed his playmaking potential and finished his rookie season with 46 receptions on 68 targets, 515 receiving yards, and a touchdown in 12 games.
He has looked impressive during Organized Team Activities and has spent time working independently with starting quarterback Lamar Jackson during the offseason. The two took the field together for the first time in an official team setting since the season ended on Tuesday. After the Minicamp session, All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews heaped some more praise on Bateman and made sure to highlight his underrated speed.
“He’s running great routes,” Andrews said. “A lot of his releases, he’s getting open at the line super quick. Then he’s got a burst of speed that people really don’t talk about. Second year, he’s a guy that’s just going to get better and better. The sky’s the limit for him.”
Bateman was already a popular breakout season candidate prior to Brown getting dealt to the Arizona Cardinals. If he can help offset the vertical threat that was lost in that transaction it will open up more space underneath for Andrews and others to make plays down the seam and at the intermediate level.
As a rookie, Bateman averaged 11.2 yards per reception and consistently picked up more yards after the catch as evident by his 7.6 yards per target. While he made most of his plays over the middle and at the intermediate level in 2021, that was more of a reflection on the lack of the offensive line’s ability to hold up long enough in pass protection to allow the quarterbacks to push the ball down the field.
He made a handful of impressive plays down the field on the boundary including what should’ve been his first career touchdown. With a revamped offensive line, healthy Lamar Jackson, and a full offseason under his belt, Bateman could show off more of the field stretching ability he displayed in college when he averaged 16.3 yards per catch during his career as a Minnesota Golden Gopher.
In addition to Bateman, the Ravens are expecting more contributions and have high hopes from some of his fellow young wide receivers in James Proche, Tylan Wallace, and Devin Duvernay. They are a tight-knit bunch that is eager to perform, help the team win, silence their critics, and prove all doubters wrong.
“It’s a close group,” Andrews said. “They’re a hungry group. They know what’s at stake and they’re ready to go.”