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Receiver Chris Moore prepares for leading role with Ravens after three years as supporting act

Chris Moore has heard it from so many quarters — teammates, fans, even Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

This could be his year to make a lasting mark.

After three seasons in a supporting role, the soft-spoken wide receiver agrees.

“I’ve been out here — this will be my fourth year — and I’ve been working, but I’ve always had some vets in front of me,” he said Thursday. “This year, I’m the vet. I’m one of the oldest guys in the room. So it’s my opportunity to step up and make plays.”

Moore had done just that during the Ravens’ voluntary offseason workout earlier in the afternoon, gliding down the field, darting over the middle and cutting to the sidelines to snare pass after pass from quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III.

“It’s up to the player to make the move and do something about it,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “But I would say Chris is ready to do that and has been ready to do that. He practices really hard, he works hard in the weight room, he knows the offense very well and he makes spectacular catches out here very often. He and I have had that conversation: ‘Let’s go.’ I think it’s his time, so he has got to do it.”

Moore, who turns 26 on June 16, is used to life as an NFL supporting attraction.

Every year he’s been in Baltimore, the Ravens have tried to shake up their receiving corps. First came Jeremy Maclin, then Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV. Now, the team has tied its future to a pair of fleet-footed rookies, led by first-round draft pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.

Moore, a 2016 fourth-round pick out of Cincinnati, has bided his time, building his resume as a kick returner and all-around special teams standout while serving as a fourth receiver.

Ravens fans have seen glimpses of his big-play talent, particularly on an 87-yard kickoff return that kept the team alive in their do-or-die season closer against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017.

But with a trio of older receivers eating up limited oxygen in the team’s passing game last season, Moore was targeted just 25 times, down from 38 in three fewer games the previous season. He was efficient, catching more than three-quarters of the balls thrown his way. But his yards per catch dropped from 13.8 to 10.3.

It was not the follow-up he dreamed of coming off his promising second season.

“We had those three older vets ahead of me,” he said, referring to Crabtree, Brown and Snead. “Whenever my number was called, I was trying to go in and make plays. You always want more opportunities as a receiver, so that’s what I’m going to be more excited about going into next year, just getting the consistent opportunity to make plays as a receiver.”

Snead is the only other returning wide receiver who caught more than 10 passes last season. The Ravens added Brown and Miles Boykin in the draft and also signed veterans Michael Floyd and Seth Roberts, but Moore has never had a clearer path to a potential starting role.

Bisciotti put the spotlight squarely on him last week during a question-and-answer session with season-ticket holders.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chris Moore being a breakout candidate,” the Ravens owner said.

Bisciotti’s words hardly shocked teammates, who say they’ve always viewed Moore as a significant talent waiting for his chance. “Chris has always been good,” Ravens cornerback Tavon Young said. “I’ve been going against him since rookie year. He’s got great hands, works hard, plays special teams. I think it’s his time now.”

The Ravens have struggled to move the ball consistently during offseason workouts as they’ve adapted to a re-designed attack under first-year coordinator Greg Roman. But Moore said the offense isn’t far from clicking with Jackson at the helm.

“It’s little things,” he said. “It’s cleaning it up. I don’t think it’s so much learning the offense anymore as just getting the details down.”

He expressed total confidence in Jackson, who will have to improve his passing consistency for any of the receivers to thrive. “He’s so hard on himself,” Moore said. “But he’s gotten better every single week. He only played half the season last year. That’s what people don’t understand. This season, I expect big things from him.”

Though Moore grew up rooting for Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, he views himself as more than just an exciting downfield threat.

“I don’t want to be one of the receivers that start and don’t play any special teams,” he said. “I want to do everything, because I feel like I can make an impact whenever I’m on the field. Whether it be kick return, gunner, blocking punts, making big catches down the field — I want to do it all. I don’t want to be one of those receivers who’s taking breaks all the time. I want to get the most out of the game.”

That’s music to the ears of Harbaugh and his staff, who treat special teams as a minor religion. Moore preaches that gospel to his younger teammates, telling them special teams offer the most accessible road to playing time and respect.

He’s carved out a sturdy place on the Ravens’ roster with his devotion to all-around play. Now, as Bisciotti and others have forecast, he feels poised to do more.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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