By Jeff Zrebiec
3:31 PM EDT, May 16, 2012
The Ravens may lack experience at the wide receiver position, but they certainly don’t lack depth. How much quality exists within that depth remains to be seen.
The Ravens’ roster currently includes 13 wide receivers, but nine of them have never caught a pass in an NFL game. Only two of them – Anquan Boldin and the recently-signed Jacoby Jones – have played for more than one season. Seven of them were undrafted and none of them were taken in the first round.
That’s why when training camp starts in mid-July, the battle to secure one of the final one or two wide receiver spots might be one of the most hotly-contested competitions in camp. And frankly, that’s how Ravens coach John Harbaugh likes it.
Boldin and Torrey Smith, who had a strong rookie year, will enter camp and the season as the projected starters, but at least currently, those two appear to be the only certainties.
“I think we can do great things,” Smith said last week when asked about the team’s beefed-up receiving corps. “I think for us, we're all here now working hard. We need to be ready for [quarterback Joe Flacco] and be reliable for Joe. Obviously, it's 50-50 between the offense and defense, but I think the better we do on offense, I think we can go far."
Jones, who had 82 receptions over the past two seasons for the Houston Texans, is the favorite to emerge as the No. 3 wide receiver along with the primary punt returner.
The next two on the depth chart would appear to be LaQuan Williams, the former Maryland wide receiver who made the team as a rookie free agent last year and totaled four catches while playing in 13 games; and Tandon Doss, a fourth-round pick last year who has yet to record an NFL catch and was inactive for 12 of 18 games in 2011.
Tommy Streeter, the big and athletic receiver out of Miami who the Ravens were surprised to get last month in the sixth round, is considered a little raw. While he may not play a big factor in 2012, the Ravens certainly like his potential so this figures to be a year of learning for him though his focus is certainly on making an immediate impact, especially in red-zone situations.
“That’s what I thrive at. I feel I create a mismatch down there on jump-ball situations,” Streeter said. “Not just in the red zone but anywhere on the field being of my stature and my size. It’s rare that you find a guy who can run the way I can. That’s one thing that I’m looking to bring, [those] mismatch and jump-ball situations in the red zone. Me being a receiver, I feel like you don’t always have to run the ball down there. It’s OK to throw a fade. I’m hoping they incorporate that in the game plan.”
David Reed, a fifth-round pick in 2010 whose career has never really got off the ground because of injuries, has become a little bit of an afterthought after he tore his ACL last December. Reed, a speedy return man who lost his job last season because of fumbling issues, is still working his way back from the injury, which creates one more obstacle in his quest to make the roster.
The rest of the group includes three receivers who spent extensive time on the Ravens’ practice squad last year (Rodney Bradley, Patrick Williams and Philip Livas) and three more (Deonte Thompson, Devin Goda and Dorian Graham) who were recently signed as undrafted free agents. A former high-level recruit to the University of Florida, Thompson may be the most interesting name on the list. He ran between a 4.23 and 4.33 40-yard dash in workouts for teams.
It’s obviously too early to speculate on how many wide receivers might make the 53-man roster. However for much of last season, the Ravens dressed either four or five receivers on game days. But depth was an issue at the position last season as Smith was the only wide receiver to be active for all 18 games.
Boldin was inactive for two games after having knee surgery, veteran Lee Evans sat out seven games with ankle and foot issues while Reed was sidelined for six weeks for a variety of reasons, from suspension to ineffectiveness to injuries. Doss and Williams also experienced stretches as regular in-actives.
With the number of wide receivers the Ravens have brought in since the start of last season, the competition both to make the regular-season roster and to be active on game days will seemingly be as challenging as ever.
"I'm just coming in focused. I'm going to do what I got to do to get on the field,” said LaQuan Williams who forced his way onto the team with a good training camp and may need to do so again this year. “I'm not going to ever take for granted where I'm at. I'm going to keep working hard."
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