Breshad Perriman has been closely watched since the Ravens used their 2015 first-round draft pick to select the wide receiver out of Central Florida. And the scrutiny has increased this season with each game he played, as his performances varied.
The spotlight will continue to follow Perriman, who said he intends to compete to fill the offense's sudden vacancy for a No. 1 wideout.
"Yeah, most definitely," he said. "When the opportunity comes to take on a bigger role, you just get ready to seize the moment. So, you have to be ready work hard during this offseason and come back better than I worked this past season."
With Steve Smith Sr. hanging up his gold-colored cleats and retiring after Sunday's season-ending loss at the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens are in obvious need of a top receiving threat. Based on the numbers, Mike Wallace would appear to be the most likely candidate after leading the offense in yards (1,017) while ranking second in receptions (72) and touchdown catches (four).
After missing the entire 2015 season because of injuries, Perriman ranked third on the offense with three touchdowns and fourth with 66 targets and 499 yards on 33 receptions. During one four-game span, he reached the end zone three times, showcasing his burst when he turned a short pass into a 53-yard score in a 38-6 rout of the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 4.
It was the type of play Perriman had hoped he could've produced more often.
"I'm happy and excited at the same time about going forward because I know what I have to improve on now," he said. "So I think I will be happy, but at the same time, I just know I could have done a lot better in every game, every practice, every play. There was something I could have done better some way and somehow."
While pointing out that several offenses have yet to develop a No. 1 wide receiver, coach John Harbaugh said Perriman has the tools to grow into that role.
"You don't have to have a true No. 1 to have a great passing attack, but I sure hope Breshad Perriman becomes a true No. 1, and to me, there are signs that's possible," Harbaugh said. "But he's got a ways to go. He's got a lot of work to do to get it done. You see the radius, and you see the speed. Here's a guy that has a chance. Now he's got to refine his route running, he's got to find his hands to catch them and just become a really good all-around receiver. This is his first year of practicing. He didn't even have training camp. So to me, there's a lot of upside there."
Consistency was a problem for the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Perriman, who despite being the team's No. 3 wideout on the depth chart played 485 snaps. That trailed Wallace (873 snaps), Smith (721) and Kamar Aiken (595). Perriman's four-catch, 62-yard outing against the Bengals marked the first time he produced more than three receptions in a game, and he finished with one or zero catches in five games.
Perriman also seemed to shy away from being hit by opposing defenders, which contributed to him finishing with a team-high five dropped passes. And aside from go and crossing routes, Perriman's repertoire was limited.
Perriman acknowledged that he has to strengthen his command of the route tree in offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast-based system, saying, "I've got to get better at coming in and out of my breaks and things like that."
Aiken, an unrestricted free agent who might join Smith in leaving the Ravens, said Perriman has the ability to show more than just the flashes he displayed this past season.
"He has a lot more to improve on individually, but I feel like it was a successful year for him," Aiken said. "He had a healthy year, he was able to go out there and make some plays, he has a lot of room to grow, and he's a young guy. So the more experience he gets, the better he'll be."
Perriman said he is eager to enter his first healthy offseason. He sat out his entire rookie campaign because of a partially torn PCL in his right knee and missed much of training camp because of a partially torn ACL in his left knee.
"I think it's going to be a huge advantage for me," he said. "There's no more rehabbing. It's just straight to work on the things that I know I need to get better at. So I'm looking forward to it."
Mornhinweg said the 23-year-old Perriman simply needs more repetitions in practice to refine what he can do on the field.
"He has an awful lot of strengths," Mornhinweg said. "He is a big man. He can run fast. He has made some plays for us down the field. It will be a good thing that he is on the Baltimore Ravens, that he is on our team in the future."
Perriman has to prove that he can succeed Smith to emerge as a productive receiving threat for quarterback Joe Flacco. Perriman has heard the whispers that the Ravens might have overreached by using a first-round pick on him, but he said those outside expectations pale in comparison to his own.
"I see and hear some of the expectations that go around, but at the end of the day, my expectations are always higher," he said. "So it doesn't surprise me, and it doesn't shock me at all. I just try to go out there and not really worry about the expectations, but do what I know and do what I do best."