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Why Has Rashod Bateman Disappeared?

Rashod Bateman runs with the ball against the Bengals
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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submitted by Sam Puccio

Ravens fans entered the season with high hopes overall, but fairly moderate expectations for their first-round receiver Rashod Bateman. The Ravens had led the league’s most dominant rushing attack by a wide margin the two seasons prior, and it seemed there would be little need for the offense to rely on Bateman’s contributions as a rookie. Everything changed with the injuries at the running back position, as the Ravens employed a more balanced offense that would, in theory, give Bateman more opportunities to put up receiving numbers.

At first, all appeared to be going well for Bateman. In the weeks after his debut against the Chargers’ he was being targeted nearly as often as mainstays Hollywood Brown and Mark Andrews. The absence of Sammy Watkins due to injury likely played a role, but Bateman’s performance in these weeks was stellar, and most importantly, he seemed to be building a strong connection with Lamar Jackson.

This connection has gone entirely off the rails in recent weeks. Lack of playing time, poor play-calling, and Lamar’s seeming tunnel vision have all been factors in Bateman’s rookie slump. Last Sunday in Pittsburgh, Bateman was targeted just once, an incompletion on a short pass which never had a chance (and may not have even been intended for him, as we see below).

He played just 33 of 74 total offensive snaps, marking the second week in a row the rookie wideout has played less than half of the total offensive snaps. At a physical 6’1”, 209 pounds with contested catch ability, Bateman’s absence entirely from the red zone offense is even more alarming. After a string of solid performances after his debut, what exactly is happening to Rashod Bateman’s playing time? The recovery of Sammy Watkins certainly plays a factor, but does Watkins really add as much to the offense as Bateman?

These questions have seemingly been answered by OC Greg Roman, as well as Jackson. Neither seem to trust Bateman yet, and it is increasingly unclear why. Bateman has made the most of limited opportunities, bar a few drops, and rather than increasing his involvement in the offense, Roman has been finding more ways to phase Bateman out. Along with this, Lamar has been staring down his two favorite targets (Brown and Andrews) who have accounted for the majority of Ravens’ targets the last few weeks.  This has led to Lamar’s spike in interceptions, as all five of his interceptions in the past two weeks have come from his unwavering search for Andrews, something defenses have come to expect and can adjust their playbooks for.

Ravens fans never expected Bateman to become a true number one receiver in the NFL like Davante Adams or DeAndre Hopkins, but his lack of incorporation within an otherwise predictable offense is discouraging.  Roman needs to find ways to put all of his biggest offensive threats in positions to succeed, and he has not been able to do so with Bateman. A large part of this may be Lamar’s one-track-mind for finding Brown and Andrews, but improvements in play-calling and breaking down film of the interceptions with Lamar would greatly contribute to diversifying the offensive options. A balanced passing attack should also help with cutting down on costly turnovers and being able to beat the blitz, the two biggest problems the Ravens’ offense has been facing.

The Ravens’ splurge of a first round pick on Bateman has in many ways exposed the limitations of Roman’s playbook, and the rookie’s failure to produce results may even contribute to Roman’s eventual departure from Baltimore.

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