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Breshad Perriman's learning curve has been longer than Ravens hoped

Breshad Perriman's first year of NFL action has featured its share of mistakes.

Breshad Perriman sat slouched in front of his locker at MetLife Stadium, a hood and winter hat covering part of his face. Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken offered a few reassuring words to Perriman before he headed to the shower. Mike Wallace then spent about five minutes talking to the young receiver, the veteran's arm at times resting on Perriman's shoulder.

"That's my little brother," Wallace said. "I'm going to always talk to him regardless of whether we have a rough day, regardless of what's the situation, because he'll do the same for me. It's bigger than football at the end of the day, so you just want to make sure he's OK and he's good mentally."

Perriman was targeted five times in the Ravens' 24-16 loss to the New York Jets and he finished with just one reception for 11 yards. Two other Joe Flacco passes intended for the wide receiver were intercepted, and another fell incomplete when Perriman didn't recognize that the Jets were blitzing on third down and Flacco had to get rid of the ball early.

Flacco spoke to Perriman on the sideline after one of the interceptions. A day later, Perriman and John Harbaugh met. Both the quarterback and coach know that the Ravens need Perriman to have the type of explosive offense they want.

"I told him, 'I just am impatient. You have all this talent, and there is a lot to learn, but I just want to speed the curve up,'" Harbaugh said. "Obviously, he said that he could not agree more. We just have to keep chasing it. It is going to happen, and let's try to make it happen sooner rather than later."

Perriman, the Ravens' first-round pick in 2015, is currently fifth on the team in receptions (14) and fourth in receiving yards (183). The highlight reel 35-yard catch down the sideline in his first NFL game against the Buffalo Bills, and the 41-yard bomb he went up and caught against the New York Giants provided glimpses of his potential.

But after missing his entire first season with a strained PCL in his right knee, and a chunk of the summer practices with a partially-torn ACL in his left knee, Perriman has spent much of this season struggling to find his place in the offense as he inherited a bigger role because of Steve Smith's ankle injury.

"That definitely tests your patience," Perriman said Tuesday. "You have to stay prayed up and stick [to] the course. I know it's going to come. … I'm a rookie because this is my first year. I expect the most and the best out of myself than anybody else. I know what I'm capable of."

Perriman has played only seven NFL games and 245 offensive snaps, so growing pains were anticipated. The other four wide receivers taken in the 2015 first round behind No. 4 pick Amari Cooper, a group that includes Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor and Phillip Dorsett, have all had issues staying healthy and being productive.

But Perriman's struggles in recent weeks have been well-documented because the Ravens are losing — they've dropped four straight games heading into their bye week — and the offense can't get in the end zone.

Perriman wasn't completely at fault for Flacco's two interceptions against the Jets, but he certainly didn't help matters by running a poor route on both of them. He said he was consumed after the game by the thought of what he could have done to prevent the picks from happening.

Three of Flacco's six interceptions this season have come on passes for Perriman. Only four NFL receivers have had more passes intended for them picked off, according to Pro Football Focus.

"It's still a growing process, still working to get better day in and day out," Perriman said when asked about his chemistry with Flacco. "It's showing. It's definitely showing. It's just a matter of time."

There were no concerns about Perriman's size and speed coming out of Central Florida. Ultimately, the Ravens used the 26th overall pick on him because they coveted a fast and physical receiver that could stretch the field and make plays in the air.

Where there were concerns was on his route running and hands, and those conerns have been justified to an extent. Perriman hasn't played enough football over the past two years for outsiders to make any determinations, but he has struggled at times in both areas. Pro Football Focus has him credited for one drop, although there was a couple of other contested catches that he couldn't make.

"Obviously, early in the year, I had a couple of drops that I, of course, want back," Perriman said. "Other than that, I just want to keep working on the little things. I think I can get better in every single area of my game. That's what I want to do every day."

That the narrative has shifted from Perriman's health to his performance is actually good news for the Ravens. There were times over his first 15 months in the NFL when Ravens' fans wondered if they'd ever see the first-round pick on the field. Last year's knee injury, which was initially described as a day-to-day thing, left Perriman in a "dark place."

The partially-torn ACL, sustained during organized team activities this year, only added to the frustration. Since his late summer return though, Perriman has managed to stay on the field. That's been imperative for a young receiver who is still learning his craft.

"He's really understanding what it takes to be really good in this league, and that's work," Ravens wide receiver coach Bobby Engram said. "Work on the details on every facet of being a receiver. It's been kind of fun to see the progression and the learning curve. My job is to keep speeding that up. The more we can force feed him and him to continue to soak all of that up, the more you're going to see more of those types of plays, the big plays down the field, the catch-and-runs, the more you'll see those show up on the field on Sunday."

Engram said Perriman is spending a lot of time these days working on his releases off the line of scrimmage. Cornerbacks have at times been able to muscle him off his routes and prevent him from being able to use his speed to the full advantage. Perriman also takes time before and after every practice to catch balls from the JUGS machine alongside Wallace.

There have been times this year — and his locker room demeanor following the Jets' loss is the biggest example — when the frustration is evident on Perriman, who tends to internalize things. Last year, Perriman was so down because of his knee injury that coaches and teammates had a hard time communicating with him.

"He's just a different personality," Engram said.

However, Engram insists that has never carried over to the practice field or meeting rooms. Engram and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg both cited Perriman for having a strong practice Tuesday after his poor performance against the Jets.

"He has done some really good things," Mornhinweg said. "A lot of it is reps, reps, reps. We were able to accomplish that today. We will get some more [Wednesday]. Once again, we get better every day and good things tend to happen. That's Breshad's mentality as well."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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NOT CATCHING ON?

After missing his entire rookie season with a knee injury, wide receiver Breshad Perriman has struggled to make a consistent impact for a Ravens' team that badly needs playmakers.

Game; Catches; Yards; Targets; Total offensive snaps;

vs. Bills; 1; 35; 2; 21;

at Browns; 2; 32; 5; 31;

at Jaguars; 2; 22; 4; 26;

vs. Raiders; 3; 24; 5; 32;

vs. Redskins; 2; 11; 5; 36;

at Giants; 3; 48; 8; 56;

at Jets; 1; 11; 5; 43;

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