By Matt Vensel
10:30 AM EDT, September 23, 2011
None of Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams have made a catch in their very brief NFL careers, but that trio of rookie wide receivers will have to step up for the Ravens on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams if veteran speedster Lee Evans is, as expected, sidelined by an ankle injury.
If you picked up the newspaper on Friday morning, you saw that this concern dominated our Ravens coverage, with Ken Murray writing this article and Mike Preston columnizing on Torrey Smith. (My respected cohort John Eisenberg also wrote about the receivers over on CSN Baltimore’s website.)
"It's been a challenge," Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler on Thursday said of getting the rookies up to speed in a shortened offseason. "Offseason wise, you can get a good foundation [and] knowledge, before you have to worry about the way the speed of the game changes when you get to the game. We've lost a little of that. These guys have done a great job adapting. ... All three are really intelligent kids."
If Evans sits out Sunday’s game, a critical game for the offense and for the team overall, he will join second-year wideout David Reed -- who hasn’t caught an NFL pass either -- on the sidelines. That means Anquan Boldin will be the only receiver suited up who has caught an NFL pass. That will change, though, with Smith, Doss and maybe even Williams seeing a lot of action.
Hopefully we don’t judge them too harshly.
Players and coaches often say that wide receiver is one of the hardest positions to learn at the professional level, and that it takes two or three years for most wideouts to blossom. In recent years, players such as Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Mike Williams have produced in their rookie years, but they were exceptions.
I know this is tough for some fans to swallow. Outside of Boldin, the receivers have been a no-show this season and another disappearing act against the Rams could result in a loss. Plus, it’s fair to want immediate production from second-round draft picks, which hasn’t happened yet with Smith.
But if you are ready to give up on Smith already -- which was the topic of Preston’s column -- please try to hold out a little longer. Give these kids a fair chance to become good pro players.
All three rookie receivers have flashed potential. Smith has all the physical attributes you want in a receiver. Doss is savvy and polished. And Williams came out of nowhere to make the team.
Let’s forget about this season for a minute and talk big picture. Which of these three rookies -- let’s throw in David Reed, too, since he’s in Year 2 -- will develop into the best wide receiver?
Your turn: Which young Ravens receiver will be the best?
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