OWINGS MILLS – Anquan Boldin isn’t only the Baltimore Ravens’ most accomplished, trusted wide receiver.
He’s also now become the primary mentor to one of the youngest wide receiver corps in the NFL following the departure of Derrick Mason to the New York Jets.
The arrival of speedy Lee Evans doesn’t change the equation for what Boldin means to the Ravens’ offense.
Since Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte’Stallworth are gone, the former Pro Bowl selection remains the unquestioned top downfield option for quarterback Joe Flacco.
“I know why they brought me here,” said Boldin, who’s playing under a four-year, $28 million contract since being acquired via a trade last year from the Arizona Cardinals. “I don’t shy away from things like that.”
Last season, Boldin manufactured a solid season that didn’t come close to approaching the big numbers he piled up opposite Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona.
He caught 64 passes for 837 yards and seven touchdowns working opposite Mason. This year, the Ravens would be thrilled if Boldin caught somewhere between 80 and 100 passes.
With Boldin and Flacco having a year together to build timing and rapport, their connection should be more potent this fall. Plus, Flacco traveled to Arizona to throw to Boldin during the NFL lockout.
“We definitely feel the chemistry getting better,” Boldin said. “We’re starting to see the same things. We’re on the same page as far as this offense is concerned. I certainly see us having a better year together."
While the Ravens will utilize Evans as a deep threat and rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss as complementary targets, it’s Boldin who’s being counted on the most.
The 6-foot-1, 223-pounder can move the chains on short to intermediate routes and is still a tackle-busting presence outside or in the slot.
“I think he was good last year,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The issues, if we had any issues, were team issues. There are always team issues, offensive issues. I expect everybody to be better. Certainly, the fact that he and Joe are together for another year, it should be better.”
Prior to joining the Ravens, Boldin caught 84 passes for 1,024 yards and four touchdowns and 89 passes for 1,037 yards and 11 touchdowns the previous two seasons.
And the former Florida State standout hauled in 102 catches for 1,402 yards and seven touchdowns in 2005.
Statistics aren’t what motivates Boldin, though. He’s chasing a Super Bowl ring.
“I’m here for one reason, and that’s to win a Super Bowl,” Boldin said. “That’s why I was brought to Baltimore. Anything less will be disappointing.”
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is counting on Boldin, who didn’t catch a pass in the Ravens’ 13-6 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles as he was only targeted once.
“He’s always important,” Cameron said. “I think he and Joe, their chemistry is growing and it will continue to grow.”
And the Ravens are banking on Boldin guiding the younger players. Boldin, 30, did this before with Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet during his Cardinals days.
Approachable and knowledgeable, Boldin doesn’t mind lending a hand even if it means being peppered with questions.
“I’ve been teaching since my rookie year,” Boldin said. “So, I’m kind of used to that role. With Mase being gone, it’s like I’m the big brother of the wide receiver corps now. I’ve got to take care of those guys.
“It’s like I’m a second coach. The thing I like is they’re willing to learn. They ask a lot of questions. Usually young guys stay in the back and hide. These guys aren’t afraid to speak up. It keeps you on your toes.”