After more than a month of inactivity, football is approaching fast.
The Ravens’ first full-team training camp practice will be held July 25. Their first preseason game is Aug. 8 against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars. Final cuts for the 53-man active roster are due by 4 p.m. Aug. 31.
Training camp will help shape the roster before the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami. As practice nears, The Baltimore Sun will take a position-by-position look at the Ravens’ roster, including breakdowns of all 90 players. Today, the team’s wide receiver situation is analyzed.
How will the Ravens use Marquise “Hollywood” Brown? General manager Eric DeCosta hinted at a wide range of possibilities after drafting him, from screen passes to reverses to long balls. Over two years at Oklahoma, Brown had just three carries, totaling no yards. He also didn’t return a kickoff or punt, perhaps because of concerns over his small frame.
One smaller question
Who will be the Ravens’ primary slot receiver? Willie Snead IV was the team’s most effective wideout there last season, but Brown’s speed makes him an open-field weapon, tight end Mark Andrews is a matchup nightmare, and Seth Roberts has a record of success inside.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown: The No. 25 overall pick hasn’t so much as run a route in a Ravens jersey yet — at least in public, anyway. The 5-foot-9 speedster has been sidelined since January while rehabilitating a Lisfranc (foot) injury, and the Ravens have remained hopeful that he’ll be cleared to do more than catch passes from the JUGS machine when training camp opens.
The team desperately needs a deep threat, ideally an efficient one. While John Brown averaged a team-high and AFC North-best 17 yards per catch last season, including four receptions of 40-plus yards, he had one of the NFL’s worst catch rates (43.3%). “Hollywood” Brown was similarly explosive at Oklahoma but had an unofficial catch rate closer to 70%.
It’s not often that rookie receivers like him join a team with a starting quarterback facing greater scrutiny about his NFL ability than their quarterbacks in college now do. But after back-to-back years with Baker Mayfield and then Kyler Murray, there’s a high bar.
Willie Snead IV: The team’s top slot receiver finished with over 500 receiving yards from the position last season, according to ESPN, among the best marks in the NFL. But after Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback, each week seemingly became a boom-or-bust proposition. After catching five passes in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson’s first start, Snead had one catch on three targets over the next two games. Then he had 10 catches on 13 targets over the two games after that. Then one catch on two targets in the regular season’s final two games.
Snead is the team’s most established receiver, and this season is an especially important one: It’s a contract year for the 26-year-old.
Seth Roberts: The free-agent signing had 45 catches for 495 yards, both career highs, in 15 games last season for the Oakland Raiders. But he played nearly 80% of his snaps in the slot, where Snead has established himself as the Ravens’ top option. Still, Roberts’ skill set suggests he can be useful elsewhere. He had a 70.3% catch rate in 2018, another career best, and is regarded as a dedicated blocker, an attribute the Ravens will continue to value.
Miles Boykin: The third-round pick signed his four-year rookie contract Wednesday, becoming the last of the Ravens’ 2019 draft picks to do so. There’s a lot to work with: At the NFL scouting combine, he rated in the 94th percentile or higher among wide receivers in wingspan, vertical jump and broad jump, all while running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at nearly 6-4, 220 pounds. But until he develops into a more well-rounded receiver, NFL cornerbacks will know what to look out for. According to Pro Football Focus, nearly half of his 867 receiving yards for Notre Dame last season came on simple go routes and out routes.
Chris Moore: The 2016 fourth-round pick was, in admittedly small doses, one of the Ravens’ most efficient receivers last season (19 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown). His passer rating when targeted by Ravens quarterbacks: 108.9. And when targeted by Ravens punters: 118.8. (Sam Koch found him in stride for a 21-yard completion in Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons.) The 6-1 Moore’s steady if unspectacular production as a kick returner is an asset as he enters the final year of his rookie deal, but the Ravens will need more from him this season. He’s averaged just one catch a game over three NFL seasons.
On the bubble
Michael Floyd: The free-agent signing is the only receiver on the Ravens’ roster who’s eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in a season. But that was six years ago, before a drunken-driving arrest and violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. The 6-3 Floyd has played for three teams over the past three years, with his most productive stint coming last season, when he had 10 catches for 100 yards over 13 games with the Washington Redskins. The former first-round pick didn’t flash his big-play ability in his first few outings with the Ravens and could find himself fighting for a roster spot.
Jordan Lasley: After a rookie season in which he was a healthy scratch for every Ravens game, the 2018 fifth-round pick needs to show he belongs on an NFL sideline. Lasley’s hands were a problem area coming out of UCLA, and he dropped several catchable balls in offseason practices. It won’t get easier in the more physical setting of training camp. There’s always potential for a breakout — he had 620 receiving yards as a redshirt sophomore for the Bruins after just 17 the year before — but quarterbacks won’t throw to the 6-1 Lasley if they can’t trust him.
Jaleel Scott: An invisible first year has seemed to energize the 2018 fourth-round pick. After struggling to stand out as a rookie in training camp, then suffering a season-ending hamstring injury late in the preseason, the 6-5, 210-pound Scott drew praise in May from coach John Harbaugh during organized team activities and continued to make plays in mandatory minicamp. His size and catch radius make him a natural red-zone target, but he’ll need to show he can block, a weakness of his entering the NFL.
Quincy Adeboyejo: A troublesome leg injury kept the former Mississippi standout, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017, on the physically-unable-to-perform list last year. After surgery in May 2018, he expected to return to action four or five months later. That timeline never panned out, and he wasn’t cleared until this past May. To make the roster or rejoin the practice squad, he’ll need to show he hasn’t lost a step.
Joe Horn Jr.: The son of four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn was signed after impressing at the Ravens’ rookie minicamp. Like his famous father, the 5-10 Horn has taken an unconventional path to the NFL: After starting his career at Northeast Mississippi Community College, he seemingly missed two seasons before moving on to Division II Missouri Western, where he had 15 catches for 246 yards.
Sean Modster: The undrafted free agent had 68 catches for 978 yards and eight touchdowns last season for Boise State, good for second-team All-Mountain West Conference honors. The 5-11 Modster has impressed cornerback Tavon Young with his all-around skills in the slot, but his athletic deficiencies might be magnified when practice at training camp intensifies.
Jaylen Smith: The undrafted free agent’s production at Louisville dropped off after Lamar Jackson’s exit, falling from 980 receiving yards in 2017 to 550 last season. The 6-2 Smith was mostly anonymous throughout OTAs and mandatory minicamp.
Antoine Wesley: The undrafted free agent finished third in the Football Bowl Subdivision in receiving yards (1,410) and 11th in receptions (88) for pass-happy Texas Tech last season. Wesley showed good hands and crafty routes during offseason workouts, but his lackluster explosiveness, even at 6-4, could hold him back.