The Ravens will hold their first full-team practice of training camp on Thursday, July 26. Each day leading up to the official start of camp, The Sun will examine several key position battles that will be decided during preseason.
THIRD WIDE RECEIVER
The competitors: Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams
Breaking it down: The Ravens have 11 receivers on their roster and only three of them – Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and LaQuan Williams – have caught a pass from Joe Flacco in a regular-season game so there are obviously a lot of questions about this relatively inexperienced group.
What’s not in question is that Boldin and Smith are the projected starters, and free agent acquisition Jacoby Jones, who was let go by the Houston Texans in May, is the favorite to secure the No. 3 spot and give Flacco another weapon to stretch the field.
That’s not to say there isn’t some skepticism surrounding Jones, a 28-year-old who had 127 catches and 11 touchdown receptions in five seasons for Houston. He has been criticized at times for his hands and his route running. But he still gives the Ravens something that they have lacked: an explosive return man and a speedy outside complement to Smith.
If Jones limits his mistakes and develops chemistry with Flacco, which No. 3 receiver Lee Evans was unable to do last year, he could flourish in the No.3 spot. His biggest challenger for that role is probably Williams, the former Poly and University of Maryland standout who made the Ravens as an undrafted free agent last year.
Williams had four catches for 46 yards in 12 games last year, but he admitted that he hit a wall in his first professional season. However, he knows the offense and looked to be in great form during the offseason workouts.
Doss, meanwhile, had a disappointing rookie season after the Ravens drafted him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He didn’t record a catch and he was inactive for 11 of the Ravens’ 18 games. Team officials have said that he is still in the team’s plans and they are hoping that an offseason spent working on his strength and agility will put him in better position to contribute.
The bottom line: It would be foolish to underestimate Williams who has overcome a slew of obstacles to get to this point and has worked hard this offseason to better prepare his body for the NFL season. He was one of the most impressive Ravens during the organized team activities. But the Ravens gave Jones a two-year, $6.5 million offer because they not only believe that he’ll jump start their return game, but they think he’ll give Flacco another viable target. Beyond the top three, the rest of the receiver competition will certainly be worth watching. There’s third-year pro David Reed, who is coming off major knee surgery and expects to be ready early in training camp. There’s sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter, an impressive physical specimen out of Miami who is still a little raw. And then there’s undrafted free agent Deonte Thompson, the former University of Florida speedster who electrified teammates and coaches in offseason workouts. Devin Goda, Dorian Graham and Patrick Williams are also hoping to stand out and earn a spot.