Demarcus Robinson is playing a bigger role in Baltimore's offense than many expected, and doing it well.
The 28-year-old wide receiver didn't sign with the Ravens until August after he was released by the Raiders during the preseason. By that time, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay were established as the starting wide receivers and it wasn't clear where Robinson would fit, or how much he would play.
Now it's clear where Robinson fits. He's a key weapon in the offense, especially with Bateman (Lisfranc foot surgery) lost for the season. Robinson's importance was never more evident than in Week 11 against the Carolina Panthers, when he produced a season-high nine catches for 128 yards during Baltimore's 13-3 victory. The nine catches were a career-high for Robinson, while the 128 yards receiving represented his second-highest career total.
When given an opportunity, Robinson seized it, and his teammates and coaches recognize his importance.
"This guy right here [Demarcus Robinson] again came up big, 'D-Rob' making many plays," Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the win against Carolina. "I was going to give him a game ball, but he just got the one last week, so we'll have to see. He just played great again."
"He played lights out," Lamar Jackson added. "We've known what he's capable of though; we just have to keep feeding him the ball."
Based on recent performances, Jackson has no reason to stop feeding Robinson. He had six catches for 64 yards in Baltimore's Week 8 victory over Tampa Bay, and over the last three games he's gone for 15 catches for 204 yards.
Duvernay is now drawing more defensive attention, and All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews is always a focal point of the opposition's game plan. The Ravens will need production from other targets for their passing game to remain productive, and Robinson has looked more than capable of filling that role. He's been most effective on intermediate routes, getting open in man-to-man coverage or finding soft spots in zones. Robinson and Jackson connected several times on throws to the sideline against the Panthers.
Robinson spent six seasons with the Chiefs in one of the NFL's most prolific passing attacks, playing for Head Coach Andy Reid and building chemistry with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Robinson won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs and has used that experience to his benefit with the Ravens. He has learned Baltimore's system quickly, becoming a leader in a wide receiver room that features young targets like Duvernay, James Proche II and Tylan Wallace.
"I've been to higher levels, and I'm just trying to get these guys to understand that, which I'm sure they do," Robinson said. "We just talk about it a lot. Just to let them know that we're not even halfway to accomplishing our goals, so we just have to keep going harder and harder, because we don't have one of our best players (Bateman)."
Robinson's production against the Panthers helped the Ravens' offensive balance, supporting a running a game that was led by another veteran player in Kenyan Drake (10 carries, 46 yards). Drake says it's important for Ravens receivers and running backs to make plays in support of Jackson, a unique quarterback who drives the offense as both a runner and thrower.
"We have a great quarterback, we have a great scheme, we have great playmakers in general," Drake said. "But when they take away something, we're going to use that to get somebody else involved, and that's why [Robinson] had a great game, and we're excited about him to mature in this offense. You know somebody's number is always going to be called away from the norm in a sense, and I'm excited about who's going to continue to step up."
Against the Panthers, it was Robinson. It wasn't the first time, and he has high expectations for the Ravens (7-3) riding a four-game winning streak.
"The defense plays outstanding almost every week; I think we just need to keep upping our ante on offense so we can meet their standard," Robinson said. "Then, I feel like we'll be unstoppable."