We've hit the slow time of the NFL calendar, the time when there's a whole lot more debate than news.
Thus, over the rest of this week, we will debate some of the most pressing issues facing the Ravens as they enter the 2022 season.
Is the young wide receiver corps ready for prime time?
The young wide receivers look ready to capitalize on a golden opportunity.
Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, James Proche II and Tylan Wallace have plenty of motivation to prove that the Ravens don't need to sign a veteran wide receiver between now and the start of the season.
Skeptics think Baltimore is thin at the position after trading Marquise "Hollywood" Brown to the Cardinals. However, Bateman strongly disagrees and wants to silence the talk. The Ravens don't have a wide receiver with more than three years of experience and 53 career receptions, but youth can also mean loads of potential.
"I just want to know why us?" Bateman said. "There's like rookie receivers everywhere going crazy, and everybody is talking about us. But, we embrace it. It's a challenge."
Brown was Baltimore's main deep threat and a 1,000-yard receiver in 2021. There's legitimate reason to wonder if the young receiving corps can handle a bigger load. Bateman, Duvernay, Proche and Wallace have combined for just 1,227 receiving yards during their brief NFL careers. That's fewer yards than All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews had by himself last season (1,391).
However, Brown's departure means more targets for any wide receiver who earns them. Bateman, Duvernay, Proche and Wallace all caught the ball consistently during mandatory minicamps, and they're all workaholics. Before training camp begins, a group of receivers and tight ends will meet with Lamar Jackson for throwing sessions at Florida Atlantic University. Bateman, Proche and others have already hooked up with Jackson this offseason, and the franchise quarterback liked what he saw.
"When I first started offseason, back in February, James Proche II and 'Bate' were out in California with me, and we were just hitting," Jackson said. "We were just throwing passes, completing passes. We were looking pretty good, so I was like, 'The chemistry is going to be there when I get there for camp.'"[add]
The Ravens had 11 picks this year, yet didn't use any on a wide receiver. Other wideouts vying for a roster spot could emerge during training camp like Jaylon Moore, Binjimen Victor, or one of the six undrafted rookies. But the four wide receivers drafted since 2020 are expected to lead the group, and General Manager Eric DeCosta firmly believes in them.
"We took 'Bate' last year; he was our first-round guy, and I think he's going to show you why," DeCosta said after this year's draft. "Devin, we have a theory that guys that end up playing on special teams and being really good special teams players end up being really good position players. We think Devin is a great young player. We took Tylan last year, and kind of the same thing. He's a young player and we were very excited to get him. He's a guy last year that we got in the fourth round, that we probably would have taken a round and a half earlier last year. Then we have James, and James made a jump last year and made some critical plays in games."
Bateman has already shown his ability as a possession receiver, and he has the speed to be a deep threat. Eleven of his first 12 catches last season went for first downs, and after missing the first five games with a groin injury, Bateman kept improving once he entered the lineup. He had his first 100-yard game (103 yards) against the Browns in December, and Bateman says ‘‘it’s my time’’ to be Baltimore's No. 1 receiver.
Duvernay's ability as a runner made him a Pro Bowl returner last year, and the Ravens will seek more ways to get the ball in his hands. Proche and Wallace were both prolific receivers in college, fearless catching the ball in traffic and adept at finding open spaces. In his final game of last season, Proche made seven catches for 76 yards.
The Ravens want more big plays from their passing game, and they'll need their young wide receivers to help make that happen. They look hungry and Head Coach John Harbaugh plans to feed them.
"At some point in time, you have put guys out there," Harbaugh said. "We all like to cling to the known, or the names. ... I'll tell you this, they're working really hard. They understand the situation, and they're making the most of it."