ESPN Pundit: 'Ravens Receivers Are Good, But They're Not Good Enough'
After General Manager Eric DeCosta strongly defended the Ravens' wide receivers during yesterday's pre-draft press conference, ESPN's Dan Orlovsky said the group is not being unfairly criticized.
"You're a great organization, but the tape says otherwise [about the wide receivers]," Orlovsky said. "In the last two years, your receivers are bottom of the NFL when it comes to catches and yards. That's with your quarterback winning MVP one of those seasons. So the tape is what the tape is.
"None of us are saying that the Ravens receivers are bums. We're just saying that they need to make an upgrade. … The receivers are good, [but] they're not good enough."
Because the Ravens have a run-oriented offense and threw fewer passes than any other team last season, it's not surprising that they were last in receiving yards. The tape and stats are two separate things, yet Orlovsky is lumping them together. When it came to passing efficiency, which is a better measure of success, the Ravens were in the middle of the pack.
However, ESPN's Mina Kimes noted that Ravens wide receivers in 2020 (Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Willie Snead IV, Devin Duvernay, Miles Boykin and Dez Bryant) ranked between 130th and 233rd in Next Gen Stats' receptions-above-expected metric for wide receivers and tight ends among 244 qualifiers.
"They've got receivers. They just don't have a No. 1 receiver," Kimes said. "They don't have a true 'X' who can win on the outside one on one. … They are useful players. They are helpful in that offense, but it is still a position group that is missing a key player."
Kay Adams of "Good Morning Football" named the Ravens as her team that needs to be most aggressive in the 2021 NFL Draft. She feels the Ravens should even consider trading slightly up to make sure they get LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr. or perhaps moving way up to get one of the top three wideouts, such as Alabama's DeVonta Smith.
"They have Lamar Jackson. He's the guy. I'm looking for the side dishes, the ones to help him out," Adams said. "They went out and did a deal for Sammy Watkins. I like to see it, but he's not a true No. 1. I'd like to see them make that happen. … I'd like to see them make this passing attack a little scarier."
A factor to take into consideration is that except for Watkins, the Ravens have one of the youngest wide receiver groups in the league (no one is over 24), and they are still developing and building chemistry with 24-year-old quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The debate about the Ravens' wide receivers undoubtedly will continue, but as DeCosta said yesterday, the team's win-loss record speaks for itself. The Ravens have made the playoffs three years in a row, leading the league in scoring in 2019 and finishing seventh in scoring last season.
"Our [wide receivers] are going to go out there and win football games for us," Head Coach John Harbaugh said yesterday. "They're going to make plays. They're going to show people. Can't wait to see it happen."
What Does Ravens' Reported Interest in Alejandro Villanueva Mean for Orlando Brown. Jr.?
A report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that Steelers free-agent left tackle Alejandro Villanueva will be visiting the Ravens raises the question of what the future holds for Orlando Brown Jr. in Baltimore.
Brown, a two-time Pro Bowler while playing primarily at right tackle, has requested a trade to a team that will allow him to play left tackle. The Ravens already have an All-Pro left tackle in Ronnie Stanley, who is coming off a season-ending ankle injury.
Villanueva, 32, is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who has started every game at left tackle for Pittsburgh over the past five seasons. Adding him would give the Ravens insurance at the position regardless of whether Brown is traded. It would also be insurance in case Stanley, who had multiple surgeries, isn't ready to play at the start of the season.
However, Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler doesn't think the Ravens would sign Villanueva to be a backup, nor does he think the veteran would leave Pittsburgh for a backup role.
"Signing Villanueva wouldn't necessarily mean the Ravens are trading Brown Jr., though it would be a good indicator," Schisler wrote. " .. Villanueva is a quality starter, so he would be about the best backup you could get in the NFL. If the Ravens draft an offensive tackle and sign the former Steeler, they could be looking for Villanueva to be a bridge starter at right tackle. There aren't a ton of scenarios that make much sense with Brown Jr. and Villanueva on the same Ravens roster."
D.J. Fluker Reportedly Signs With Dolphins
Speaking of the Ravens' offensive line, veteran D.J. Fluker is signing with the Miami Dolphins, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio's Alex Marvez.
Fluker started eight games last year in his lone season with the Ravens, taking snaps at right guard and right tackle. He thanked the Ravens organization and its fans on social media for his time in Baltimore.
Fluker would be reunited with former Ravens center Matt Skura, who signed with the Dolphins last month.
Ravens Chosen As Member of Mythical NFL Super League
The announcement that 12 European soccer teams plan to form a Super League prompted Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio and Chris Simms to discuss which NFL franchises would be members of a mythical, eight-team Super League.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, the past two Super Bowl champions, were given charter membership. The remaining six spots were selected by Florio and Simms in a draft.
After Florio began by selecting the Green Bay Packers, Simms took the Ravens with his first pick.
"The Ravens, just from a pure roster standpoint, deserve to be in the league," Simms said. "Of course, what they've done the last two years — Lamar Jackson and everything like that, one of the better defenses in football. They're the cream of the crop as far as the NFL's concerned, and they have a quarterback that's in his prime and a lot of other good players that are in their prime. So to me, that was an easy one."
The remaining four spots (in order) went to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. So more than a third of the Super League would be composed of AFC North teams. The Browns, who are coming off their first winning season since 2007, beat out the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
Despite winning six Super Bowls in the past 20 years, New England and Head Coach Bill Belichick were denied entrance in the Super League after finishing 7-9 in 2020, their first losing season since 2000. Seattle has had nine straight winning seasons, during which it won a Super Bowl and appeared in another.