As if the Ravens' veteran receivers needed more motivation after a disappointing 2010 season, NFL.com analyst Pat Kirwan poured gasoline onto the blazing fire this week.
Kirwan, a former executive with the Jets, ranked the top 50 receivers in the league in tiers of five. He placed Boldin in the fourth group, or top 20, with the notation that he was on the decline. Kirwan placed Mason in the eight group, or top 40, and indicated he also was in decline.
Perhaps more indicative than the ranking was the group of receivers Boldin and Mason were placed with. Boldin's group included Brandon Lloyd of the Broncos, Steve Smith of the Panthers, Wes Welker of the Patriots and Mike Williams of the Bucs. Only Williams was considered a player on the rise.
Mason's group included Stevie Johnson of the Bills, Danny Amendola of the Rams, Steve Smith of the Giants and Mike Williams of the Seahawks. Only Johnson was rated as a player on the rise.
Kirwan's top group included, alphabetically, Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals, Andre Johnson of the Texans, Calvin Johnson of the Lions, Reggie Wayne of the Colts and Roddy White of the Falcons. White was the only ascending player in the group.
Two Steelers receivers were ranked: Mike Wallace was placed in the third group (top 15) and Hines Ward in the fifth group (top 25) with Terrell Owens.
The Ravens' passing game was a mess last year when Joe Flacco had trouble finding open targets and showed a reluctance to throw into tight windows. A second year with Boldin with prove valuable. Mason has been working hard in the offseason to remain a key element in the pass offense. And the big question will be how quickly Cam Cameron can get Torrey Smith into the mix.
If this truly is the year Flacco takes over the offense, all three of those wide-outs need to have big years.