Every receiver wants the ball. That’s just the nature of the position. It’s a bigger problem if a playmaker doesn’t want it. But it’s all about how a player reacts when that happens and according to Mason Rudolph, he’s thrilled with how JuJu Smith-Schuster has handled things. Despite an ugly 3 catch, 15 yard performance on Monday’s box score, Rudolph praised the effort and patience Smith-Schuster showed.
“JuJu’s a team player,” he said via the team website. “There’s going to be games like that where they take him away and other guys have to step up and make plays. And they did Monday night. That’s the kind of group we have. Very unselfish group. If I’m not scoring two touchdowns, I’m still going to be a great teammate, block my butt off, and encourage the younger guys. That’s what he did.”
Thanks to Smith-Schuster being mic’d up Monday night, we have some evidence of that. In this clip shared by our Daniel Valente, he can be heard praising Diontae Johnson after his touchdown.
Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said similar in speaking to the media Thursday afternoon when asked about Johnson getting wide open thanks to JuJu drawing the coverage away.
“Well, you know, that’s part of the thing that comes with being in JuJu’s [Smith-Schuster] position,” Fichtner said. He may attract more attention and that’s why the other guys have to make their plays and be in position to do that, and Diontae’s [Johnson] done a nice job the last couple weeks.”
Despite the inconsistent production, Rudolph said the goal is to always get Smith-Schuster the ball.
“You gotta get the ball to your best playmakers. That’s something we look forward to every week in the gameplan. But also emphasis on my end in-game.”
Smith-Schuster is on pace for just 68 receptions, 1032 yards, and four touchdowns. A far cry from the 111/1426/8 line he posted a year ago. He’ll have a tough task against Ravens’ CB Marlon Humphrey this Sunday. Humphrey’s been one of the league’s best corners and helped hold Odell Beckham Jr. to just two receptions and 20 yards last week.
Statistically though, Baltimore’s pass defense hasn’t been great. They rank near the bottom in yards per game allowed and 20+ yard completions. We’ll have a full scouting report on their defense Friday morning.