Ravens receivers have been source of frustration and, occasionally, promise

The Ravens wide receiver group, which was unsettled but deep entering the season, hasn't done much to answer questions about its future.

When asked Monday about the emergence of contributors from outside of the team's original frame of focus, coach John Harbaugh took that to mean players who weren't in the team photo.


It's an appropriate connection to make. When the Ravens took their team picture after the Week 4 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, four of the six receivers who played this past Sunday — Chris Givens, Chris Matthews, Daniel Brown and Kaelin Clay — were on other rosters or out of football altogether. A fifth, Jeremy Butler, was on the Ravens practice squad.

The Ravens have gotten an extended look at nearly a dozen wide receivers this year, with many under contract for 2016. It leaves the team in much the same position as this past summer.


"It's exciting in the sense that we have numbers," Harbaugh said. "I think we have a lot of numbers of some valuable, talented guys with upside. [Butler and Matthews] are great examples of that."

With the departure of Torrey Smith in free agency this past spring, perhaps no position on the Ravens roster was as fluid as wide receiver entering training camp. First-round NFL draft pick Breshad Perriman was expected to be a contributor right away, but did not play a game after suffering a knee injury on the first day of full-team practice at training camp.

The lone constant in the group this year was Kamar Aiken. Signed to the Ravens practice squad two Novembers ago, Aiken's breakout began in Week 14 last year. He caught three touchdowns in the final six games of the season, including the playoffs.

Steve Smith Sr. carried the load as the Ravens' No. 1 receiver when healthy in the first half this season, but Aiken has filled in well since. If you combine Smith's stats with Aiken's during the stretches that Smith was out with a back injury and a torn Achilles tendon, the Ravens have had one of the more productive top receivers in the game: 102 catches, 1,375 yards, and six scores.

Behind them, though, has been frustration and only occasional promise.

Marlon Brown was the No. 3 receiver behind Smith and Aiken for the entire first half of the season, but caught 14 passes for 112 yards and was demoted for the second half before a back injury cost him the last six weeks of the season. He was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.

Second-year receiver Michael Campanaro was the fourth receiver and kept adding touches before a Week 4 back injury ended his season.

Chris Givens, acquired before Week 5 in a trade with the St. Louis Rams, and Jeremy Ross, added from the practice squad that week, moved into the fourth receiver role for stretches of the first half, too.

But with Givens a free agent after this season and Ross released after Week 10, the focus shifted toward the future — a group of wide receivers who could be useful in 2016.

Butler, an undrafted free agent in 2014 who spent the year on injured reserve and was added to the practice squad in Week 7 this season, made his debut in Week 9 and has caught 25 passes for 306 yards in seven games.

A member of this year's undrafted rookie crop, Daniel Brown, has six catches for 63 yards after spending most of the first half of the season with a football job.

And Matthews, who caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in last year's Super Bowl, had one catch in each of his first two games with the Ravens before catching three passes for 19 yards and his first regular-season touchdown Sunday against the Steelers.


The variety of targets getting passes thrown their way this season sets the Ravens up for another wide receiver competition in training camp, though the difference this year is that many more come into the season with an NFL track record.

Many of the same faces will be back, though Brown is a restricted free agent and Givens is an unrestricted free agent. Smith announced his retirement before the season began, but after his season-ending injury some Ravens coaches and players have said they expect him to return.

And there will be a chance for Perriman, Clay, and fellow rookie wide receiver Darren Waller, who played sparingly in the first half before a hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve in October, to make an impact.

"It's going to be really interesting when we come back," Harbaugh said. "The competition level is going to be high.

"It's going to be on, and as a coach, you love that."


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