Advertisement
News

T. Taylor looks to put consistency in route

With his career entering the red zone, Travis Taylor is primed to score a breakthrough season.

The former first-round pick is in the best position of his four-year Ravens career, just as the projected bust-out window for a receiver is slowly closing on him.

Advertisement

For the first time, he has the same starting quarterback (Chris Redman) in consecutive training camps and he has two veteran wide-outs (Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson) beside him to spread out defenses.

The challenge for Taylor is to prove he can avoid his annual disappearing act and deliver some magic on the field. His goal is to reach 80 catches this season and become the go-to receiver the Ravens envisioned when they picked him 10th overall in 2000.

Advertisement

"That's my next step: I got to get to a point where I can demand the ball," Taylor said. "I think I can do that."

So far in training camp, Taylor is playing with the confidence of a No. 1 receiver.

He is attacking passes rather than reacting to them, fighting for the ball through traffic. He is shedding tackles after the catch, turning routine 5-yard receptions into 30-yard highlights.

In becoming the team's offensive star of camp, Taylor is showing signs that he could be on a familiar course to the Pro Bowl. Historically, it takes receivers three years in the league to break out.

Ravens officials point to the progression of David Boston, whose reception totals were 40, 71 and 98 in his first three seasons. Taylor, who missed half his rookie season with a broken collarbone, had similar numbers in his first two full seasons (42 in 2001 and 61 in 2002).

If the Ravens want to jump-start their passing game, they need Taylor to make that transition from a promising prospect to a pivotal playmaker.

"You always have high expectations when you take a guy 10th in the draft," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's time for him to show up on a consistent basis."

Consistency has been the catchword of Taylor's career.

Advertisement

He started the 2001 season fast before tailing off. He then began last season slow before finishing strong.

But that's been the troublesome pattern for Taylor. He can be on for a couple of weeks, off for the next two.

"To be a go-to guy, it's not just a matter of making great plays," Billick said. "It's the quarterback knowing that he can go to you at any situation, and more often than not, you're going to deliver."

Last season was another up and down campaign. Taylor had five games with five or more catches and four games with two or fewer receptions.

In Taylor's defense, he has not had the benefit of developing a rapport with a quarterback. The Ravens have started eight quarterbacks in Taylor's 41 games.

"The biggest thing is consistency," said Taylor, who has averaged 3.3 catches a game over his career. "You go out and see [the Colts'] Marvin Harrison had eight catches a game or [the 49ers'] Terrell Owens with at least four catches a game. A lot of things play into it, but at the same time, those guys demand the ball."

Advertisement

Taylor has demanded more of himself this offseason.

Looking to improve his speed, he hit the treadmill, where he ran on a 20 percent incline at 15 miles per hour.

The improvement wasn't limited to the physical part of the game. He expanded his knowledge as well, trying to break down a defense beyond the cornerback and safety positions.

New Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller told Taylor that Vikings receiver Cris Carter could go in motion and call out the specific defense.

"If you can do that, you know what they're doing and they don't know what you're doing," Taylor said. "I'm trying to be more a student of the game."

Although Taylor admits he hasn't yet lived up to his first-round hype, it's tough to judge him off last season.

Advertisement

After Brandon Stokley went down, Taylor lined up opposite rookie receivers Ron Johnson, Javin Hunter and Randy Hymes, all of whom combined for eight catches in seven starts.

This year with Sanders and Robinson, Taylor won't have to be the sole outside threat.

"Travis is going to grow well," Sanders said. "Bringing us in should help a lot. If we go out and make plays, it will take a lot of double coverage off him."

Whether it's single or double coverage, the pressure will be on Taylor for the entire season.

"I guarantee you my expectations are way higher than anyone else," said Taylor, whose contract runs out after the 2004 season. "I promise you that. I know what I need to do and where I can go at this time in my career."


Advertisement