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The Competition 2014: Wide Receivers

Posted Jul 17, 2014

With more talent than past years, there will be a tight competition in training camp.


“The Competition” is a series that breaks down every Ravens’ position battle leading up to training camp.

Returning Players

Torrey Smith (6-foot-0, 205 pounds, fourth season)
Smith had a breakout 2013 season, posting career-highs in catches (65) and yards (1,128). He became Joe Flacco’s top target and showed his continued maturation as a player. Smith’s hands have greatly improved over the past two years, and he showed more ability to turn catches on shorter routes into long gains. Smith is a big play waiting to happen at any time.

Jacoby Jones (6-2, 215, eighth season)
The Ravens re-signed the explosive Jones to a four-year deal this offseason. Despite missing four games with a knee injury, Jones topped his reception (37), yards (455) and touchdown (two) totals from the previous year. Now reunited with his “biological father” Gary Kubiak, Jones could be in store for more. His best years as a receiver came with Kubiak in Houston. He’s still one of the league’s premier special teams returners.

Marlon Brown (6-5, 214, second season)
Brown exploded onto the scene last year, tying the Ravens franchise rookie record for most touchdown receptions in a season (seven). He caught 49 passes for 524 yards as well. Brown’s a huge target who is tough to bring down, making him a prime red-zone target. To take the next step, he has to make some big plays that fell incomplete last year.

Deonte Thompson (6-0, 203, third season)
Thompson was competing for a starting spot last year when he injured his foot during a preseason game. That set him back and he finished with just 10 receptions for 96 yards. Thompson found some trouble off the field this year, but that is now behind him. He’s trying to re-establish himself as the speedy, tough playmaker that he has shown in practice, and transfer that to games.

Gerrard Sheppard (6-2, 207, first season)
Sheppard spent most of last season on the practice squad. The Towson product is a hard worker with a good attitude, and he’s grown his game as a receiver as well. Sheppard flashed some good hands and ability to get open during Ravens Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

Kamar Aiken (6-2, 215, second season)
Aiken was signed to the Ravens’ practice squad on Oct. 30 last season and spent the rest of the year in that role. He was re-signed to a reserve/future contract after the season was over. The Central Florida product saw action in two games with Buffalo in 2011 and one game with New England in 2012.

Newcomers

Steve Smith Sr. (5-9, 195, 14th season)
The Ravens snatched Smith after he was surprisingly cut by the Carolina Panthers. Smith is 35 years old and coming off a down season with 64 receptions for 745 yards and four touchdowns. But he strongly feels he has a lot left to offer and has made a positive impression thus far. Smith still has a lot of quickness, is highly competitive and should help the Ravens on short routes and over the middle of the field. He’ll be an asset on third down.

LaQuan Williams (6-0, 195, third season)
Williams isn’t exactly a newcomer. He spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Ravens, but was waived as part of last year’s final training camp cut. He missed much of camp with a hamstring injury. The Ravens re-signed Williams in late April. He’ll add more competition to the special teams units, where he excelled previously.

Mike Willie (6-2, 220, first season)
Willie had a successful minicamp tryout, earning a contract from the Ravens. During his first two years in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, he scored three preseason touchdowns, but has yet to suit up in a regular-season game. Willie is known as a strong blocker.

Rookies

Michael Campanaro (5-9, 185)
The Ravens hope Campanaro matures into the next Wes Welker or Julian Edelman. He’s a slippery, quick slot receiver who will be learning the ins and outs of the NFL game. The Ravens valued Campanaro so much that they traded back into the draft when it looked like they were done to select him in the seventh round. The local River Hill High School product was highly successful in high school and college at Wake Forest, but was slowed at the start of his NFL career by a hamstring injury.

Jeremy Butler (6-2, 218)
Butler is an undrafted rookie who has made a solid impression thus far. He’s a big target who has good hands and made a number of plays during OTAs and minicamp. Butler even got some time with the second-team offense. The former Tennessee-Martin standout caught 90 passes for 1,203 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior.

Jace Davis (6-1, 206)
Davis is another talented undrafted rookie who occasionally flashed during practices so far this summer. He seemed to have a good connection with third-string rookie quarterback Keith Wenning. Davis was hampered by injuries at Northern Colorado, but stood out when healthy and recorded 44 catches for 673 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.

Frontrunners

It seems the Ravens’ top four receivers are locked up between the Smiths, Jones and Brown. Torrey Smith and Jones will be the speed, big-play threats on the outside while Smith will mostly work the underneath routes from the outside and slot. Brown will likely once again be a prime red-zone weapon.

Behind them is more of a question mark, and depends on how many wide receivers the Ravens want to keep. It’s typically five or six.

Thompson has a lot of potential, but has yet to stay healthy or consistent enough to fully show it. The Ravens have high hopes for Campanaro, but he may be more of a work in progress at this point. If he’s going to be on the 53-man roster, he’ll likely do it as a reserve special teams returner. Butler has been impressive, and is weaseling for a way to get on the team like Brown did a year ago.

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