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Rashod Bateman Up Close

Rashod Bateman
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports
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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Although it was put on hold for a little over a month, we finally got our first look at Rashod Bateman in the Ravens’ two games before their bye week. In the two contests, the rookie has 109 yards on seven catches, good for 15.6 yards per catch, to go along with an impressive 9.1 average depth of target and 44 yards after the catch.

Coming out of the week off, we now have two games of film on him to break down. He’s played 91 total snaps so far (so much for easing him in), and I watched every one of them. Here’s what I took away from the tape, including what he’s doing well, how he’s being used and what he can improve upon.

Route Running

There are many variables that go into being a plus route runner and Bateman has shown he can do all of them at a high level.

One of those is recognizing when you have leverage on a cornerback and then using it against them. Leverage is achieved when the corner’s hips are turned away from where your route is going, leaving the man in coverage vulnerable. This is what makes Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase so good and how he dominated Marlon Humphrey a couple weeks ago.

Here you can see Bateman get the corner turned around and out of place. Jackson ultimately takes a sack and the nice move is for not, but it’s still a nice display of Bateman’s abilities.

Beating jam coverage is something else he’s shown he can do. Jam and press coverage are often confused, press being based on where the cornerback lines up (typically only a yard or two off the line) and jam being when a corner lines up in press and gives the receiver a good shove right at the snap. If a jam attempt is successful, it can be devastating for a receiver to get back into his route without messing up the timing of the route and the play.

Bateman quickly shakes off the jam. He then swipes by to his side where the route is designed to take him. This ensures that the pre-snap plan isn’t thrown off course before he sits down right at the first down marker. Rashod then adds a few more yards after the catch, showing good awareness of where the sticks are.

At the top of the route is where the rookie is most dangerous. He’s quick and sudden in his movement and he uses it to gain separation. This is my favorite rep from Bateman’s two games and he didn’t even touch the ball.

The quickness of the cut in this route is outstanding. It’s a perfect route, maybe one of the best I’ve ever seen run, especially from a recent Raven. He’s extremely quick and smooth in his break, gets into open field and turns his head to look for the ball. Well done.

This is another nice play where Bateman isn’t targeted but again shows how he can stop on a dime at the top of his route. Coming off a groin injury, it’s really encouraging how quick he is in both straight line speed and in his breaks. The cornerback isn’t ready for the move and it instantly gives him a few yards of separation. He again gets his head turned around quickly, then the ad libbing begins with Jackson rolling out to Bateman’s side.

Very few receivers are better than Bateman at the top of their route. Coming out of Minnesota, Bateman was seen as one of, if not the best, route runner among the draftable wide receivers. In just two games, he looks like he could one day be one of Baltimore’s best ever in that department.

After The Catch

Bateman is just as dangerous after the catch as he is before it. He does a lot of things after the catch well and doesn’t make a lot of simple mistakes we see other receivers make. Too often we see pass catchers try to transition from catcher to runner too quickly and they fail to fully track the ball into their hands, resulting in a drop. This does not apply to Bateman, who is very fluid in his transition from a receiver to a runner. Yes, his only drop resulted in an interception, but even he would tell you he had to use his hands and not his body to catch that one. You can see here how fast he makes the transition and how naturally he looks getting upfield after the catch.

When he isn’t targeted in open space, Bateman still finds a way to pick up yards. This pass from Jackson forces Bateman slightly to his right and he knows the defender will react accordingly. His quick step to his left leaves the defender diving for his ankles and it allows Bateman to stay upright and fight for a couple extra yards when there were none to be had.

The flashiest play from Bateman after the catch came on this rep, maybe his best display of how elusive he is with the ball in his hands and how hard it can be to bring him down. The spin move followed by a side step is stuff from a savvy veteran, and it allowed him to get past a defender that was within a yard of him and pick up a tough first down, all courtesy of the YAC.

Bateman is fast both through the catch and after it, and it’s what allows him to transition from receiver to runner very easily and get upfield, where he’s hard to bring down.

Usage

Bateman’s usage is that which you would see from a true number one wide receiver. He’s played over 60 percent of snaps, has run a route on 58 of Lamar Jackson’s 77 drop-backs and has a 20.6 percent target share in his two games. Unlike at Minnesota, where he lined up in the slot 76 percent of the time in 2020, Bateman has been primarily outside, lining up in the slot for only 11 snaps. Furthermore, he’s being targeted in all three levels and has been the primary pass option in a bunch of RPOs. So far, he’s impacted the passing game exactly how we hoped he would.

Being the pass option on RPOs is especially exciting when thinking of what could come in the second half of the season. Bateman’s game is perfect for the run-pass option, which is designed to get the receiver the ball with room to run or at the very least draw as much attention as possible away from the backfield.

He only has one target on an RPO so far, but he did make it count. 

Room For Improvement

Run Blocking

The biggest part of run blocking from receivers is effort. It doesn’t need to be as technically sound of a block you’d see from a lineman, you just need to get the cornerback out of the way. Some receivers, such as Miles Boykin, are great at this. After almost every long run by a Raven over the last three years, you’ll see Boykin eventually come into frame as he’s moving his defender out of bounds 30 yards downfield. Again, it’s mostly effort and willingness, and it’s something I’d like to see more of from Bateman. The lack of that has hurt the Ravens on a few outside runs.

Here’s a rep from him that shows a lack of effort. Rather than stepping to the defender to move him where you want, he waits for the defender to come to him and starts hand fighting as opposed to squaring up and taking him on. The Bengals cornerback easily disengages with Bateman and makes the tackle on what could have been a nice Le’Veon Bell run. The lack of aggressiveness and effort has hurt the Ravens on a couple of outside runs to his side.

Building Chemistry

Like with any rookie pass catcher, chemistry with his quarterback won’t come quick or easy. It’ll take time to develop, and there were a couple of examples in both games that showed Bateman and Jackson are just a tick off in terms of timing.

Bateman may never get to Marquise Brown or Mark Andrews’ level of connection and trust with Jackson, but it can still improve and it will as the season continues. I’m eager to see the two work together after the bye, a good time for the two to get more comfortable with each other.

All told, the negatives Bateman has put on film through two games are mostly easy fixes or things every rookie struggles with. There are no glaring issues, mental mishaps or indications of problems that would linger. They’re things that take time to work through that were unfortunately pushed back due to his groin injury.

The route running skills are elite; he frequently gets leverage and takes advantage of it well, is able to beat jam coverage, is sharp in his cuts and gets his head turned around to look for the ball quickly. The after the catch ability is a plus; he transitions from receiver to runner well without losing focus on the ball, is fast through the catch point and downfield and is hard to bring down with the ball.

And the usage suggests he’s in for a big finish to his rookie season.

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