The Baltimore Ravens will set out to try and make the 2021 season count in a few months time, and like any team, there’s a good deal of things to think about as kickoff draws nearer.
In every NFL city, there’s a great degree of optimism over the return of football, but digging into the specifics, why should Ravens fans be particularly fired up about this season? There’s a good reason, and it involves one of the rebuilt parts of the roster this offseason.
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Recently, Bleacher Report writer Kristopher Knox took a look at picking out the reasons for optimism in every NFL city. Interestingly enough, Knox can be counted as someone who clearly believes in the wideout position for the team, as he named them
“One could argue quarterback Lamar Jackson is the Baltimore Ravens’ biggest reason for optimism. He was the league MVP two years ago, and the Ravens have not missed the playoffs with him as the starting quarterback.
However, Jackson and the Ravens could be poised to take the next step this season thanks to their revamped receiving corps. Baltimore added Sammy Watkins in free agency and drafted Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the spring.
Bateman has the potential to be the No. 1 perimeter target that Jackson has lacked in his NFL career—last year’s No. 1 wideout, Marquise Brown, had just 58 catches for 769 receiving yards. This is big because if Jackson can improve even a little in the passing game, the Baltimore offense could be borderline unstoppable.
Even in a “down” year last season, Jackson passed for 26 touchdowns, topped 1,000 yards rushing and carried the Ravens into the second round of the playoffs. With more talent out wide, there’s no reason why the AFC title game shouldn’t be a realistic goal.”
The Ravens ground game is going to bring it in 2021, so it would be huge news if the team’s wideout group could meet them halfway. The Ravens have struggled to get that level of production from the pass catchers in recent years, so a change of that in 2021 is what everyone is hopeful for.
If fans could have reason for hope at wideout, that would be even better news for the team moving forward.
Pressure Mounting on Ravens’ Wideout Group
The Ravens have made some major changes this offseason, and the spot that has seen the most change has been that of wide receiver. The Ravens have some players on the roster who should take a jump in Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, James Proche and Devin Duvernay. Otherwise, they added a younger veteran in Sammy Watkins to the mix, and have a pair of important draft picks in Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace who the team will want to see develop quickly this coming year and make a big impact right off the bat.
Knowing all of this, the Ravens’ pass catchers were already going to be under a ton of pressure, but it’s clear that they could be the one make-or-break spot on the roster.
Ravens Rookie Pegged for ‘Most Productive’ Rookie Season
Recently, NFL.com analyst Cynthia Frelund took a look at projecting the top 8 rookies in the league in terms of impact at wide receiver. As she wrote, Bateman comes in the six spot in terms of a player who should be expected to do some damage next year on the field.
“Ravens wideouts only logged 41 receptions of 10-plus air yards last season, as well as just 78 catches for 952 receiving yards when aligned out wide — all NFL lows, per Next Gen Stats. (Baltimore was the only team to earn fewer than 1,200 yards from wide alignments.) Route-running precision is a metric my model values more than most, and Bateman thrives in this area, especially when aligned on the outside. I’ve found that route-running precision leading to separation in college typically plays well in the NFL. Over the past two seasons in the FBS, Bateman ranked No. 3 among wide receivers in terms of route-running efficiency (as measured by reliable timing and the ability to create separation) on routes run from outside alignment. Pro Football Focus adds additional context here: Over the past two seasons when it came to intermediate targets (10-19 air yards), Bateman ranked second in the FBS with 44 catches and third with 697 yards. The only reason he ranks sixth on this list is the volume of rushing plays the Ravens are still likely to run.”
Bateman playing a starring role for a resurgent Ravens’ pass catching group would be huge and welcome news for the team in 2021. Certainly, that in itself is a reason for optimism.
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