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How Many Wide Receivers Will Ravens Keep?

Posted Aug 27, 2013

Baltimore generally keeps six wideouts. But could an influx of young talent change that?

The Ravens generally keep six  wide receivers on the 53-man roster. That’s what they had last year when Week 1 rolled around, and the year before.

But could an influx of young talent this year lead to Baltimore keeping extra wideouts?

The emergence of rookie Aaron Mellette and undrafted rookie Marlon Brown has fans and pundits asking the question of whether this could be the year seven – or even eight – wideouts remain after the final round of cuts.

Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell wasn’t giving any clues Monday afternoon.

“I’m not quite certain of what the numbers will be. That’s John [Harbaugh] and Ozzie [Newsome] – they take care of that,” Caldwell said.

“We do have some guys that are obviously performing well, so it’s great competition. Some of those young guys, like Mellette and Brown, are doing a tremendous job. They’re making good progress, and we’ll see what happens.”

Right now, eight receivers are on the roster: Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Brandon Stokley, Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Mellette and Brown.

The top three (Smith, Jones and Stokley) appear to be locks to make the team. From there, it gets more difficult.

Coaches raved about Thompson throughout the offseason and start of training camp, talking about his speed, toughness and improved route running. But he suffered a foot injury in the first preseason game on Aug. 8 and has been sidelined since with no clear return date.

Doss opened training camp running with the first-team offense, usually as the third wide receiver and used in the slot. He sometimes got on a hot run with quarterback Joe Flacco, and other times didn’t get many looks.

Doss hasn’t had a particularly strong showing in the first three preseason games. He has two receptions for 10 yards and a touchdown, but had a miscommunication with Flacco that led to an interception in the last game against Carolina.

Last week, the former fourth-round pick ran more with the second-team offense as the Ravens gave their rookies a chance with the first team. Caldwell said Doss has looked good in practice recently.

“He’s had an unbelievable week this week in terms of just preparation,” Caldwell said. “He looks good. He’s probably running as well as he’s run since I’ve been here, at least. I think he feels good about himself. He’s healthy, which he hasn’t been for a while in previous years. I think Tandon is working, he’s competing and doing a nice job.”

LaQuan Williams had an eye-opening performance in the first preseason game in Tampa Bay, where he made two catches for 32 yards and a leaping touchdown. But he has just one snag for 11 yards in the two games since. Williams said after the Tampa Bay game that him making the team may come down to “just making every play” on offense.

But it may hinge more on special teams, where he seemingly has a leg up on the rest of the wide receiver competition. He did overrun a play as the gunner in punt return, however, in the game against Carolina, helping lead to Ted Ginn’s 74-yard touchdown.

Mellette and Brown have shown their potential on offense. Mellette scored touchdowns on each of his first two NFL receptions. Brown hauled in four passes for 59 yards against Carolina, including an impressive 24-yard touchdown grab despite tight coverage.

A big question is how much the rookies provide on special teams because the final couple of players in the wideout corps are certainly required to contribute in that facet of the game.

Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg talked about grooming Mellette in a number of different positions. He’s working as a gunner, an end on punt rush and as a blocker along the front line on kickoff returns. Rosburg sees a lot of potential for him as a special teamer because Mellette has size, speed and long arms.

Mellette blocked the punter on Asa Jackson’s return for a touchdown against the Falcons.

“We’re giving him a lot of different skills that a lot of the wide receivers that come into the National Football League have never done,” Rosburg said. “It’s an incremental process. He was better this week than he was in practice, and this coming week, we expect him to be even better.”

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