Discussions over the state of the Ravens’ receiving unit has seemingly been a rite of passage each summer amongst the Flock, with the volume and temperature hitting new heights each year.
This summer? Deafening and scalding.
The draft-night trade of previous top target Marquise Brown, and no immediate move to fill that void, has left many with a certain degree of angst, to say the least. Having Brown, promising second-year receiver Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews at tight end seemed pretty good to many. Taking away Brown, and replacing that spot with Devin Duvernay, James Proche, Demarcus Robinson or name-your-undrafted-free-agent-of-choice, well… not a move that has satisfied a big portion of the fan base.
And it’s understandable. Brown was not a perfect receiver, and often frustrated with drops and an apparent aversion to physical contact in what is undeniably a contact sport. But he brought something to the table that just isn’t there right now, and that is blazing speed. For a team largely constructed to run the ball on offense, that scare-you-out-of-your-pants guy who can make a safety take a step backwards every snap was valuable.
Yes, Duvernay is fast. But he’s a different player than Brown. Duvernay is a guy who is good at picking up a full head of steam and using a speed/power combination to run through arm tackles and get upfield. It’s what makes him such a dangerous return man. But it’s different. It’s just a different skill set.
But I think the Ravens are fine with receiving options as we near the season. Personnel-wise, no matter how much the Ravens open up the offense, they don’t figure to become a team that lines up with four receivers unless there are extraordinary circumstances. A third-and-five situation would probably see Bateman, Andrews, Isaiah Likely and pick-your-poison on the field. That last guy could be Robinson if they need a guy who can shake press coverage quickly, or Proche if they need someone to find a soft spot in a zone, or Duvernay if they are looking at crossers or four verts. There are options, and I think there are enough.
Until there aren’t.
In football, it’s probably wise to expect the expected. And injuries should fall under that label. If Bateman or Andrews or even Likely goes down, all of a sudden there is a problem. Andrews is the unquestioned star. Bateman is the one who can provide a little something on every level of the defense. Likely has shown strong hands and an ability to get open through finding safe spots or using his body to get leverage.
The rest of the group, in my often-wrong opinion, are good options who can play off situations created by other players. Proche getting blanketed by a top corner could be a tough win. Same with Duvernay. Robinson hasn’t shown a ton of consistency in his career to this point, though I am more positive about his skills than most seem to be. I think Charlie Kolar can contribute when he gets through his injury.
Do the Ravens need another receiving option right now? I’m not sure they do. Could they need one by the end of the final preseason game, or after any practice session or game during the season? In the most-urgent of ways, yes.
Eric DeCosta has shown a willingness to engineer trades in the past, and I really think that’s the only route at this point. T.Y. Hilton? Not in 2022. Will Fuller? If he comes with Band-Aids and a Rascal, maybe. Chris Moore? I’ve seen that show before. We’ve all seen that show before.
On Aug. 30, teams will need to cut down to their final 53 and there will be a little more clarity. We’ll know what teams need a guard or a safety or are clearly looking to the future and in want of future picks. Or who have a plethora of receivers, and only one ball to go around.
Don’t be surprised to see the Ravens make a move at that point, and jump on a receiver who offers something that’s either different for this current group (pure speed or a physical presence on the outside) or a player who can at least offer something on all three levels if needed to step on the field.
They look good right now at receiving options… until they don’t.