The Baltimore Ravens have made slow, but arguably steady progress over the course of their past three seasons with Lamar Jackson under center. In 2018, during his rookie season, they snuck into the playoffs. They went 14-2 a year later. Then this past season, they finally won a game in the postseason.
If they want to go deeper, though, then they know that they need to create a more dynamic passing attack as one of the key steps in that direction. A lot of that rests upon Jackson’s shoulders, but it’s also about the guys around him, and it’s no surprise they’ve continued to invest in the position.
While they signed Sammy Watkins in free agency and drafted two more wide receivers, including one in the first round, they are still counting on continue growth from their last first-rounder, Marquise Brown, drafted in 2019.
While he certainly hasn’t been dragging his feet—he has 104 receptions for 1,353 yards and 15 touchdowns in 30 games, which isn’t far from Diontae Johnson’s numbers—if this offense is going to be elite, and dynamic, then they need him to be that guy. And teammate Mark Andrews, their Pro Bowl tight end, sees that in him, saying that he’s “extremely motivated” this season.
“I know ‘Hollywood’ is a guy who has always been motivated, but just being able to work this offseason with him, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with him, and it’s been awesome just to see where he’s at”, Andrews told reporters yesterday as Ravens training camp opened. “He’s going to be ready to go. He’s such a dangerous player. I think he’s the type of player that’s going to shock-the-world-type of thing”.
The Ravens do have a deep roster at wide receiver now, at least on paper, and will have to figure out who they keep. They have drafted two wide receivers per draft in each of the past three years, starting with Brown and Miles Boykin (a third-round pick) in 2019, Devin Duvernay (third) and James Proche (sixth) in 2020, and most recently, Rashod Bateman (first) and Tylan Wallace (fourth) this year. Add Watkins to that list, and you have at least one odd man out.
Brown was drafted for his elite speed. While he was recovering from a significant foot injury when he came out of school, so did not run at the Combine, he has previously been timed in the low 4.3 range, and he has displayed this unique trait numerous times. That’s why he already has eight career 40-plus-yard receptions, including two 70-plus-yarders.
But can he round out his game and become a more reliable, dependable outlet for Jackson? That’s the next step. And who steps up around him within that group? The Ravens wide receivers have put up some of the lowest numbers in the NFL as a group in each of the past three seasons, and that’s not just on the quarterback.