Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said Monday that he is insulted when the team’s receivers are criticized, and that this group of young wideouts feels the same way.
The Ravens can’t be too offended.
If they were, they would do something about it, like draft a legitimate No. 1 receiver for the first time in team history, someone who can make an impact for about five or six years. Instead, the Ravens have drafted No. 1 wannabes in the first round like Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton and Breshad Perriman.
Who is at fault? Ozzie Newsome and now DeCosta, the man who took over as general manager two years ago. Instead of feeling “insulted,” “guilty” is a better word.
There really is no explanation for the Ravens’ inability to draft a No. 1 receiver, except the obvious one. Since moving to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1996, the Ravens have been one of the best teams in the NFL at drafting. Not only have they won two Super Bowls, but they’ve produced three Hall of Famers in offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed.
They have a good chance of having two more in outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and guard Marshal Yanda, and one with a remote possibility in running back Jamal Lewis.
But selecting a top receiver has been the franchise’s Achilles’ heel. Instead of just acknowledging the problem, DeCosta went on the offensive Monday.
“I mean, do we think about it? I guess we think about it, but we want to win games,” DeCosta said. “That’s really what I think about more often, why did we lose the game? Or why did we win the game? So, we want to have good players at every position. I’m aware that there’s some fan discontent with our wide receivers in our drafting and all of that. But in general, I look at our record and how we win games and how we play football. I’m proud of the team. I know Coach [John Harbaugh] is proud, and I know [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz] is proud. We have some really good, young receivers.
“It’s insulting to these guys when they hear that we don’t have any receivers. It’s quite insulting. I’m insulted by it, too, to be honest. I think we have some guys that want to show everybody what they can do. I think we’ve had a lot of good receivers here over the years that have won big games for us. I know this; I think Lamar [Jackson] likes our receivers, you know? I think our coaches like our receivers. I think the teammates, the guys on this team like our receivers.”
It’s apparent that the persistent questions about the receivers have struck a nerve. Good, maybe the Ravens will finally go draft a good one.
It’s impressive that they are one of the top franchises in the NFL and consistent winners, but the top priority is always to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. The Ravens have won more than 10 games each of the past three seasons, but it’s time for them to take the next step on offense.
That means finding Jackson a No. 1 receiver, because his inaccurate arm can’t carry an offense. This situation is reminiscent of an exchange between former Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin and quarterback Joe Flacco one day at practice in 2011.
Flacco, who could be highly inaccurate at times, was missing targets badly. Boldin walked up to him, called him every name but Joe, and told him to just throw the ball somewhere near him and he’ll go get it.
That’s what the Ravens don’t have. Oh, they have the inaccurate quarterback, but not that go-get-it receiver. They need a guy who is going to make that play in crunchtime regardless if he is double teamed, or who will make the leaping catch in the far corner of the end zone.
Dez Bryant and Willie Snead IV weren’t that guy, and Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin aren’t that type either.
DeCosta claims that this team has a good group of young receivers. Maybe that’s true, but their potential might never be realized in the Ravens’ wishbone offense. Brown improved at the end of last season, but Boykin was basically a blocker. Rookie Devin Duvernay has outstanding speed and showed some promise early, but then he disappeared late in the season.
I guess promise can only take you so far.
But if this group was so valued, why did the Ravens spend the first part of free agency chasing around receivers like T.Y. Hilton and JuJu Smith-Schuster? If they had so much talent, why did the Ravens sign Sammy Watkins? It’s one thing to go after a legitimate No. 1, but none of the three fit that description.
The Ravens have to learn a tough life lesson: when you mess up, you fess up and shut up. At least they have a chance to recover in this year’s draft.
“That was a strong position last year. I think it’s a strong position this year,” DeCosta said of the receiver class. “You got a bunch of guys in the first three rounds that can really come in and compete to be significant players for you early on.”
Hortiz gave positive remarks about wide receivers Rashod Bateman of Minnesota and Terrace Marshall Jr. of LSU. Both have been generally linked to the Ravens, who have the No. 27 overall pick in the first round.
“In terms of Bateman and Marshall, both [are] talented guys who have some versatility,” Hortiz said. “Marshall has played outside and then moved inside. Bateman did the same thing in each of the past two years. So, they’ve showed off their ability to play from different spots of the offense. A little different at what they do best, but certainly two guys that we have our eye on.”
If it works out for the Ravens, a lot of the talk about their wide receiver problems in the draft will be forgotten, much like it was about the quarterback position after Flacco played well in Baltimore.
But if it doesn’t, DeCosta might feel insulted again.
April 29-May 1
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