Miles Boykin has always trusted the speed of his body.
As a 6-foot-4, 220-pound NFL wide receiver who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds, he won’t encounter many athletes who put him to shame.
But as Boykin prepares for his second season with the Ravens, he’s working to make sure his mind can keep up with his legs. He acknowledges that was not always the case during his rookie year. As he sought perfection on every play, sometimes he got stuck in his own thoughts.
“I’m a fast guy, but that’s not what it’s about when I say playing fast,” he explained Tuesday on a conference call with Baltimore media members. “When you’re younger, you worry about, ‘OK, what do I have to do?’ When you’re older, you know why am I doing this. ... So now I’m worried about how to do things right. I’m not worried about what I need to do right.”
The coronavirus pandemic has kept Boykin from following through on some offseason plans. He had hoped to get to Florida for workouts with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and fellow second-year receiver Marquise Brown. Boykin said he’ll finally make that trip next week along with several other teammates.
But he has worked out with the team’s third-string quarterback, Trace McSorley, and perhaps more importantly, he’s picked apart his own game on film, something he did not always have time to do during the season.
As such, he feels ready to make good on optimistic projections from Ravens coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta, who’ve said that they expect Boykin to take a significant step forward in his second season.
“I just feel like I’m getting better as an all-around player,” he said. “I’m capable of a lot more. I’ll be able to play faster this year, have more chemistry with Lamar.”
Boykin, 23, stood out as one of the team’s most impressive young players at the beginning of training camp last summer. But that promise did not translate to big-time production during his rookie season. Boykin caught just 13 passes on 22 targets, though he did average 15.2 yards per catch and score three touchdowns. Coaches praised him for maintaining his intensity as a blocker even as he failed to see the ball consistently.
Boykin said that in addition to struggling with the speed of the pro game at times, he was not fully prepared for the battering his body would take over a 16-game schedule. He needed the last four months to feel refreshed.
“I feel great,” he said. “My body feels great. And I feel like I’m ready to play another season. I know what to expect now.”
The team drafted two receivers, Devin Duvernay of Texas and James Proche of SMU, but neither is perceived as a classic outside target. So Boykin’s path to playing time seems as clear as it was at the end of last season. He’s one of only three established receivers guaranteed to make the roster, along with Brown and Willie Snead IV. As efficiently as the Ravens moved the ball last season, they would become more potent if he reaches his potential as a downfield and red-zone threat.
“They bring great versatility,” Boykin said when asked about Duvernay and Proche. “I think that’s one thing you can say about our receiving corps. You look up and down and you don’t say OK, this guy is like that guy. I think we’re all different. We all have different sets of talents. And that’s what’s going to make us work well this year.”
Boykin has already gotten to know the rookies as the team goes through virtual meetings and workouts. He said he’ll remind them that “each step is a new level.”
“That was probably the hardest thing for me,” Boykin said. “I was coming in there trying to be perfect, and nobody ever is.”
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Asked if he had thoughts about another pass catcher — seven-time Pro Bowl selection Antonio Brown — who’s continually linked to the Ravens in offseason rumors, he said: “No, other than I think he’s a great receiver.”
The pandemic has hit close to home for Boykin, whose mother works as a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital that’s treating COVID-19 patients. He recently auctioned off online meet-and-greet sessions with fans, donating the proceeds to the United Way in his hometown of Chicago.
But he’s not fretting about the impacts on his preparation for what could be a pivotal year in his career.
“Are we behind on where we would be in a normal year?” he said. “Maybe. But since the whole league is doing that, not really. We’re doing as much can now in terms of knowledge of the game.”
Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed spoke to the Ravens on Tuesday, urging them to take care of business as best they can under the circumstances, whether that means focusing on finances, physical recovery or film study.
Boykin and his teammates know they’ll be on the short list of Super Bowl favorites entering the season. But Harbaugh always tells them that no team is Super Bowl-ready on the first day. That level, which the 2019 Ravens tasted before falling to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, is built over seven months.
“I think we have the potential to be a great team,” Boykin said. “For us, we can’t listen to the outside noise. I don’t think we ever have. We lost to Tennessee because we didn’t play well enough to win. It wasn’t because we thought we were better than we really were.”