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Kamar Aiken Showing His Consistency


Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken has always been confused by claims that he wasn't consistent.

How could he put up consistent production when he wasn't getting consistent opportunities?

This season, Aiken has gotten that everyday job for the first time in his young career. And Aiken has done the job – consistently.

After a career-high 90 receiving yards last Sunday against Seattle, Aiken now leads the Ravens in receiving yards (674), receptions (54) and targets (93). He's tied with tight end Crockett GIllmore for the team lead in touchdowns (4).

Since Steve Smith Sr. was lost for the season, Aiken has posted at least five receptions in six-straight games, tied with Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald for the NFL's third-longest streak behind Atlanta's Julio Jones and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown.

Aiken's not only put up good stats because of the litany of injuries at wide receiver.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Aiken has been the NFL's 18th-best receiver this year. That means he's not only starter material on any team, but could be a No. 1 receiver on nearly half the teams in the league.

Aiken's rating is better than the New York Jets' Brandon Marshall, Denver's Emmanuel Sanders and even former Raven turned 49er, Anquan Boldin – a player Aiken is compared to by some of his teammates.

So what does Aiken think he's proven?

"I showed people not to put a ceiling on people. I have no ceiling," he said this week.

"I showed people a lot just by being on a roster. They told me I couldn't make a team, they told me I wouldn't be able to make a catch, I wouldn't be able to score, I wouldn't be able to start."

Aiken was part of 15 transactions before landing on the Ravens practice squad midway through the 2013 season. He was on three previous teams in two seasons (Bills, Bears and Patriots).

In Baltimore, Aiken has gradually worked his way up the depth chart, boosted at times by injuries to his fellow wide receivers.

Aiken beat out Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro and others in training camp, but may not have been a starter had first-round rookie Breshad Perriman not been injured. When Smith went down with his Achilles injury, Aiken rose another peg on the ladder.

"Hard work doesn't always pay off, but it sets you up for when you do have an opportunity," Aiken said. "When you get that shot, you're able to take care of the job at hand."

Since Nov. 1, when Smith was lost for the season, Aiken has caught 35 passes for 405 yards and two touchdowns. That's an average of almost six catches for 68 yards per game.

"I think he's making plays," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the main thing with Kamar; he just comes up, and he makes plays.

"He is about as good and tough a competitor as you're ever going to see. He's running good routes, he learns from his mistakes and he doesn't get flustered. … He's a real tenacious personality and very persistent human being, and I think that's a big part of his success."

While it's not his bread and butter, Aiken has started to make more plays in the deep passing game in recent weeks. He's kept or developed a rapport with each of the Ravens' three quarterbacks. He's working to do the same with recently-signed Ryan Mallett.

And in the wide receivers classroom, Aiken now looks around and finds himself to be the veteran leader. He said he's taken more on his shoulders since Smith went down.

"He's out here every day, and he's leading the way," Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman said. "He's one of the guys that has remained standing, he has made the most of his opportunity and he's helping guys around him get better."

Aiken has been banged up, too. In Week 10 against the Jaguars, his knee was awkwardly bent backwards on a helmet-to-helmet hit. He also left the Miami game for a short period before returning.

"Yeah, I'm not coming off the field," Aiken said. "There's only one thing I don't take for granted. You never know when they're going to take that opportunity away from you. I told myself that if I got released from Chicago, I would play every game and every play like it's my last."

As Harbaugh has said the Ravens' 2016 season has now started, it leaves the question of what Aiken's role will be on the team moving forward.

Smith said this was going to be his final year, but teammates and Harbaugh have expressed a belief that he could return. Once Perriman is healthy, the first-round pick will be a big part of the future.

Aiken, who is slated to be a 26-year-old restricted free agent, said he wants to remain with the team that "jumpstarted my career."

"He has gained confidence in himself, because he has had the opportunities, and he's had success," Trestman said. "That can only help him in the future and help him in how we evaluate him next time around."

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