In regard to struggling wide receiver Breshad Perriman, let’s get one thing out of the way: It would be foolish for the Ravens to move on from him now, the way many frustrated fans are suggesting. There’s nothing to be gained from that, and the Ravens don’t exactly have a plethora of young receivers who are waiting in the wings and would benefit greatly from the team removing Perriman from the wide receiver equation.
Regardless of how this season ends, the Ravens figure to decline Perriman’s fifth-year option for 2019 this offseason. He’ll then come to training camp next summer needing to earn a spot on the 53-man roster through his performance and availability. All of that makes perfect sense. What doesn’t is not waiting to see whether the 2015 first-round draft pick benefits from a possible healthy offseason and comes back as a more prepared and confident player next summer.
But that still leaves Perriman’s status as a weekly decision over the final five regular-season games. The Ravens made him a healthy scratch against the Green Bay Packers as coach John Harbaugh thought the young receiver would benefit from a “reset.” This Monday night, Perriman returned to the lineup because the Houston Texans struggle to cover the deep ball and have given up a lot of big plays. He played 16 snaps, was targeted twice and finished with no catches for the fifth time this season.
Joe Flacco didn’t give Perriman much of a chance on either target against Houston, so the game was hardly a referendum on Perriman. However, this season surely has been one, and it’s probably past the point of thinking Perriman will salvage it.
Do the Ravens keep running him out there every Sunday in the hope that something magically clicks while leaving themselves short-handed or weakened at another position? That doesn’t seem like the right play, not when their margin of error is so slim and mistakes — such as dropped passes that turn into key interceptions — can cost games and playoff berths.
Regardless of what is said by and about Perriman, he still plays like a receiver lacking confidence and Flacco doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him. A common outside suggestion has been to try to engage Perriman by getting the ball into his hands on short passes, such as screens and hitches. However, the Ravens offense hasn’t shown a consistent ability to do any of that quick stuff well. And the priority anyway should be to get the ball to Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace, more reliable and trusted options than Perriman.
Where that leaves Perriman, I’m not sure. But it’s tough to foresee his situation changing much anytime soon.
Count your blessings?
With all the attention Perriman’s struggles have gotten, and rightly so, just imagine the uproar if the Ravens had traded up in the first round to draft a wide receiver, which many fans wanted them to do. The Ravens had interest in Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, Clemson’s Mike Williams and Washington’s John Ross, but all three were taken within the first nine picks.
It’s far too early to judge players who were just drafted in April. However, it’s fair to say that the Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals haven’t gotten the immediate impact from their first-round receivers they hoped for.
Davis, taken fifth overall by the Titans, has missed five games with a hamstring injury, and he has 20 catches for 215 yards in the six games he’s played. Selected with the seventh pick by the Chargers, Williams has nine catches for 84 yards, and he’s already missed five games and will likely miss a few more with a knee injury. And then there’s Ross, the ninth overall selection by the Bengals and a healthy scratch Sunday for the third time in four games. Ross has played three games and still hasn’t made a catch.
Obviously, all three might turn out to be very good players, but it’s a reminder that receivers who come in and immediately make an impact, like Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and A.J. Green, don’t come around every year.
Shouldn’t be either/or
It seems there is a perception that if Perriman is active, Michael Campanaro cannot be; or it’s one active running back spot for Buck Allen and Terrance West. I doubt that’s the way team officials are looking at it going forward, and it’s a mistake if they are taking that approach.
The Ravens could always hold out one of their four tight ends or keep one of the reserve linebackers on the sideline. They also are routinely dressing nine defensive backs, so they probably could get away with having one fewer there. The final few 46 spots on game day usually are earmarked for special teams, rather than certain positions, anyway.
But any way you break it down, there are other options beyond leaving your best punt returner on the sideline in sweats. With the offense struggling and the increasingly cold weather making field position an even bigger factor, you’d think the Ravens would want to have Campanaro out there going forward.
Ten quick thoughts:
1. That Alex Collins was on the field Monday in the final two minutes with the Ravens trying to run out the clock and the Texans trying to get the ball back is quite a show of faith in the work the young back has put in to address his fumbling problems.
2. It’s a shame Detroit Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is out for the rest of the season with a biceps injury and won’t get an opportunity to face his former team Sunday. With Ngata potentially retiring this offseason, it would’ve been appropriate for him to take the field at M&T Bank Stadium one more time before his Ring of Honor ceremony.
3. There’s a ways to go obviously, but I doubt many Ravens fans would be all that comfortable with a scenario in which the team would have to beat the Bengals in the regular-season finale to make the playoffs.
4. Harbaugh and team owner Steve Bisciotti have said on different occasions this year that while they view rookie fifth-round offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor as a nice prospect, he’s not ready to play right now. Thus, I can’t imagine the team will be overly patient with him as he works back from a shoulder injury. He’d be an immediate injured reserve candidate if the Ravens need a roster spot.
5. That the Ravens essentially had five fullbacks/tight ends active Monday, and I’m including Patrick Ricard in that group, shows you how much influence senior offensive assistant and tight ends coach Greg Roman has on the game plan.
6. The Ravens pass defense has been one of the best in the league all year, but the unit is still having problems in the middle of the field. That’s an area a good quarterback will repeatedly exploit. The Ravens haven’t played many good quarterbacks this year.
7. No word yet on the severity of Marlon Humphrey’s leg injury, which Harbaugh described as a “tweak,” but with two good quarterbacks and two strong sets of wide receivers upcoming in games against Detroit and the Pittsburgh Steelers, this would not be a good time for the Ravens to be without the impressive rookie cover man.
8. It was classy of a handful of Ravens to run across the field to congratulate Texans star DeAndre Hopkins as he headed quickly to the locker room after an outstanding performance Monday. Hopkins is a stud, and several Ravens went out of their way to acknowledge how well and hard he played. That group included cornerback Jimmy Smith, who struggled all night against Hopkins. Smith shouldn’t feel bad. Hopkins has gotten the better of Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman this year, too.
9. West has had his maturity and professionalism questioned in the past, but Ravens officials are extremely pleased with how the running back has handled losing his starting job because of an injury and being a healthy scratch the past two games. West has been working hard on the scout team and has said and done the right things.
10. For all the talk about play-calling and Flacco’s decision-making, his accuracy probably hasn’t been scrutinized enough. There have been a few plays this year, including the slant Monday to Wallace, where, if the quarterback had led his receiver, the Ravens would probably have scored a touchdown. Instead, Flacco has thrown the ball slightly behind and made the receiver adjust.