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Mike Preston: Ravens offense out of excuses after drafting another wide receiver | COMMENTARY

It’s time for Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman and quarterback Lamar Jackson to step up their games.

For the second time in three years, the Ravens drafted a receiver in the first round by selecting Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman with the No. 27 overall pick.

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Four picks later, the Ravens selected Penn State defensive end/outside linebacker Odafe Oweh to finish the first round of the annual draft Thursday night. Oweh is considered more of a project, while Bateman will need to start right away.

During the past three seasons, the Ravens have been eliminated from the playoffs mainly because of an ineffective passing game that can’t complement the rushing attack. Last year, the Ravens had the NFL’s top rushing offense for the second straight season, but they were ranked last in passing offense.

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Ravens discuss their two first-round picks in the NFL draft, WR Rashod Bateman and linebacker Odafe Jayson Oweh.

In 2019, they drafted Marquise Brown out of Oklahoma in the first round to help improve the passing game, and then they selected Bateman, putting the onus on Roman and Jackson.

Roman has been criticized for the past two seasons for not having a sophisticated passing attack, and Jackson has struggled throwing accurately outside the numbers.

With the addition of Bateman and receivers such as Brown, Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay the past three years, there are no more excuses.

At 6 feet and 190 pounds, Bateman is expected to provide the outside speed and vertical threat the offense has lacked the past couple of seasons. He caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019, but only played in five games in 2020 because of coronavirus concerns.

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Bateman caught 36 passes for 472 yards and two touchdowns last season, but still managed to impress the pro scouts enough that he was considered one of the draft’s top receivers. Bateman, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, can play outside or in the slot, which should create a lot of mismatches.

Combined with Brown and Duvernay, the Ravens have one of the fastest receiving corps in the NFL.

So, now it comes down to concepts. Roman has been superb in building a run offense, but he has to devise a stronger passing game. The Ravens don’t have to climb into the top 10 in passing, but rising to the 10-20 range would create more balance.

Jackson also has to play better, and that includes reading defenses and improving his mechanics, which faltered in the second half of the season. The Ravens have improved on offense on paper during the offseason with the addition of Bateman and by signing guard Kevin Zeitler and receiver Sammy Watkins.

Now, it comes down to mixing the passing game in with the run offense.

On defense, the Ravens are hoping that Oweh can fill a major need as an edge rusher. He was chosen four selections after Bateman in the first round, but appears need some fine-tuning. Oweh had five sacks in 2019, but none last season, even though he finished with 38 tackles.

He did rack up a lot of pressures and apparently was impressive enough for the coaches in the conference to name him first-team All-Big Ten. The 6-5, 257-pound Oweh needs to increase his hand strength and build an assortment of moves, but the Ravens like his physical abilities.

He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and has a vertical leap of 39.5 inches. During his pro day, he had a 134-inch broad jump.

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