OWINGS MILLS - Brandon Stokley may be 37, but he doesn't look all that dissimilar from Brandon Stokley at 27.
Have some of his physical skills diminished over the years? Surely.
Is he a star? No.
Is he the same level of weapon out of the slot as a Wes Welker or Danny Amendola? No, he's not.
But is Stokley, who signed with the Ravens two weeks ago, a player who could catch 40 or 50 passes out of the slot for a Baltimore offense in search of reliable weapons in the passing game? Just look at Thursday's game against the Carolina Panthers.
Stokley was only on the field for 13 snaps, but he had three catches, two of which converted third downs. One was a twisting, acrobatic 27-yard catch over the middle on a pass thrown behind him by Flacco. The catch converted a third-and-13.
"Brandon played really well," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "He did a nice job on all downs, but especially third down. He's playing at a high level. He's doing a good job."
Stokley isn't a burner, and he never has been, but he still does the same things well that made him one of the more productive slot receivers in the NFL during the mid-to-late-2000s.
"He runs great routes," Harbaugh said. "He does a great job of getting loose and getting open against pretty much every coverage."
The ability to still do those two things - run great routes and get open - combined with his sure and reliable hands make Stokley look like a player who could help a Ravens team in need of a reliable weapon in the slot after trading Anquan Boldin during the spring and losing tight end Dennis Pitta to a serious hip injury early in training camp.
The biggest challenge, at least from Stokley's point of view, is acclimating himself to Baltimore's offense, although his rapport with Flacco has been noticeably building during the last two weeks.
There is also the rust factor considering he was without a team from the end of last season until signing with the Ravens and didn't take part in any offseason practices.
"I'm just trying to improve every day," Stokley said. "I still feel I've got to improve on. And that's my goal in practice every single day is just to get a little bit better."
But both Harbaugh and Flacco have spoken highly of Stokley during the week or so, and Stokley, of course, is coming off of a resurgent season with the Denver Broncos.
He was on three different teams in the three years leading up to last year, and he had just 51 total catches during those three seasons, but he signed with the Broncos last year and caught 45 passes out of the slot for Peyton Manning and Denver's offense.
He finished with 544 yards and five touchdowns. He also had three catches for 27 yards and a touchdown during the Broncos' playoff loss to the Ravens.
Stokley may be 37, but he was an effective weapon out of the slot for Denver last year and it looks like he has a chance to make an impact for Baltimore out of the slot as well.
"I feel good," Stokley said. "I'm just happy to have this opportunity to keep playing, and hopefully I can prove to them that I can help them during the season."

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