In their preseason opener, the Ravens were able to produce 44 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the backups had their time to shine, the performance of the first-team offense did little to help answer the questions surrounding the wide receiving corps.
During the first two series of the game, the starting offense failed to produce a point, and the two wide receivers expected to fill the roles behind Torrey Smith failed to produce.
Jacoby Jones & Tandon Doss
Both Jacoby Jones and Tandon Doss were held without a catch, Jones was targeted twice, Doss once. Granted, both were only given a quarter to play and could have shown up at a later point had this game counted, but this offense was primarily designed with short passes, which when targeted, each player allowed catchable balls to hit the ground.
The Ravens gambled on both Jones and Doss being ready to produce when they traded away Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers. Jones and Doss are being handed a legitimate shot to win starting spots with the first-team offense, but neither has done much to keep the team from exploring other options at the position.
Within the past week, Deonte Thompson has tried to add his name into the mix for a starting job. The former Florida Gator made the team as an undrafted free agent last year, winning the primary kick returning duties before fumbling a ball and his job opportunity against the Kansas City Chiefs five weeks into the season.
Thompson recorded one catch for five-yards and was targeted another time in which the ball hit him squarely in the numbers on the front of his jersey and fell to the ground. The night would come to a premature end for Thompson who had to leave the game with an ankle injury. There has been no update on his progress but we’re likely to find out when head coach John Harbaugh addresses the media today.
What Thompson displayed during a short time in the game is the same thing he’s shown in practice. He’ll find ways to get open, but he’s a body catcher, which often leads to increased drops on passes thrown straight at him. Another struggle for Thompson is the fact that his game closely mirrors that of Smith and Jones, who primarily rely on their speed to create separation against opposing defensive backs.
Torrey Smith’s Development
Smith is quickly shaping into a legitimate top-tier receiving threat in this league. Smith has done his best to shed the label of just being a burner, as he’s becoming a crisp route runner and works daily on improving his hands prior to practice with the JUGS machine.
Smith has taken that next step to becoming a finesse receiver in the league. However, Smith’s primary problem is that unless someone steps up as a legitimate receiving threat alongside of him, he’ll be bracketed by opposing defenses unconcerned with the threat (or lack thereof) opposite Smith.
Other guys are stepping up
Fortunately, the Ravens still have three preseason games to work their kinks out at the wide receiver position and some younger stars did show promise against the Buccaneers. LaQuan Williams had the game of his life, primarily on special teams but hauled in two catches for 32-yards and a touchdown. Williams could figure into the Ravens slot receiver battle and his efforts on Thursday will likely have him seeing more time with the first team next Thursday as the Ravens play the Atlanta Falcons.
Marlon Brown (UDFA/Georgia) also had a good night, receiving plenty of playing time, catching two passes for 31 yards (Longest: 19 yards). Seventh-round pick Aaron Mellette (Elon) made the most of his opportunity, catching his only pass for a 21-yard touchdown to essentially seal the game for the Ravens.
While it’s exciting to see young players step up, they’re also going against inferior competition. The Ravens need to see what Williams, Brown and possibly Mellette can do against starting defenses throughout the league. After making the impact they did in the first preseason game, the aforementioned players have placed themselves in position to earn more playing time throughout the preseason against superior competition.
It’s exciting to see players like Williams, Brown and Mellette seize the opportunity they’ve been given during the first preseason game. Unless one of them has a breakout preseason or Jones and Doss show something different than what they have already, I would figure Ozzie & Co. to be watching rosters of other teams and making a move within the next few weeks.
Oh, the joys of the preseason.