When Steve Smith Sr. announced his retirement, the Baltimore Ravens were left with a major void at wide receiver.
In 2016, Mike Wallace had some explosive plays, and Breshad Perriman started to show some glimpses of what made him a first-round pick, but neither can provide the dynamic, all-around play that Smith Sr. brought to the offense. What made Smith Sr. such a critical piece to the puzzle for quarterback Joe Flacco was his ability to win at all three levels of the field: short, intermediate and deep.
Maclin is coming off an OK year in Kansas City (44 catches and two touchdowns in 12 games), but has a long history of being a proven wide receiver who is well-rounded at all levels of the passing game. He also provides the Ravens with an option out of the slot.
Having a receiver who can contribute underneath or as a deep threat complements the speed of Perriman and Wallace well, and provides Flacco with a much-needed range of options in three-receiver sets.
Let’s look at how Maclin can make an impact at all three levels of the field.
When it comes to underneath routes, Maclin is a technician in regards to finding the right spot to gain separation and create an open field in which to operate.
Here, Maclin stays lateral to the other receiver coming across the middle, forcing the cornerback to take the route around the crowd instead of cutting underneath.
This creates about as much separation as a wide receiver could possibly gain so close to the line of scrimmage. Maclin properly utilizes his surroundings and sets up an easy pitch-and-catch.
By sending the fellow Chiefs receiver across the middle, the play creates an open half of the field for Maclin, leaving him with a one-on-one opportunity against the cornerback. He may have struggled with injuries in 2016, but Maclin still has the short-area quickness to make a defender miss.
Being able to contribute underneath will allow Maclin to coexist with Wallace and Perriman, two true downfield threats.
Maclin’s agility and field awareness also come into play in the middle of the field on intermediate routes.
As his teammate runs down the seam, Maclin stops on a dime and turns toward the soon-to-be-open middle of the field.
Maclin’s premier footwork allows him to make one step and cut inside, gaining separation from the slot cornerback as the middle of the field continues to open up.
By the time Maclin reaches the sweet spot over the middle, he has already gained ample space between himself and the secondary to haul in an easy reception.
Flacco is at his best when he has receivers capable of quick-hitting routes 10-15 yards from the line of scrimmage, and Maclin will certainly contribute in that regard. Maclin’s immediate presence will be felt in Baltimore’s offense in both the short and intermediate passing game.
However, while he may not be the deep threat he once was, Maclin continues to excel in one-on-one situations downfield at this point in his career.
Here, Maclin is isolated with the cornerback, with no over-the-top safety help.
This gives Maclin a prime opportunity to simply take off downfield instead of sifting his way through coverage. While not quite the speedster he was during his Philadelphia Eagle days, Maclin still has the quickness to take the outside lane and jet past a defender.
Maclin works his way down the sideline, creating separation throughout the route and hauling in a perfectly placed pass.
Having the luxury of a wide receiver who can contribute in any facet of the passing game is a rare commodity for Baltimore, and Maclin gives Flacco arguably one of the most diverse passing options he has ever worked with.
Coming off back-to-back seasons of 80+ catches and over 1,000 yards prior to 2016, Maclin will certainly be a heavy contributor in Baltimore’s passing game as long as he can stay healthy.
A top-three wide receiver set of Wallace, Perriman and Maclin will not scare many opposing defenses, but it is more than enough for Flacco to work with in order to get back into the playoffs in 2017.