Did the Ravens Upgrade at Receiver?
The wide receiver position has been a heavy talking point for the Ravens this offseason.
The Ravens retooled their wide receiver corps after parting ways with veterans John Brown and Michael Crabtree. They prioritized finding players to fit Lamar Jackson’s skillset, signing Seth Roberts and spending first and third-round picks on Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal named the Ravens’ receiving corps as one of the most improved positional groups following the draft. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote that Brown and Boykin’s additions were instant upgrades.
But not all pundits are completely sold just yet.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer reviewed the Ravens’ offseason transactions at each offensive position based on three verdicts: upgrade, downgrade or push.
Running back, tight end and offensive line were upgraded, according to Shaffer. Quarterback earned a push with Lamar Jackson returning as the starter. But what was perhaps most surprising was that Shaffer views wide receiver also as a push.
“[I]t’s unclear how quickly the rookies will be able to help, or how much,” Shaffer wrote. “In an offense that de-emphasized receivers midway through the season, Brown still finished with 715 yards last season, and Crabtree 605.
“Here’s what rookie receivers drafted among the top 93 picks — a range set by where Boykin was taken — have averaged over the past three years: 511.2 receiving yards per game in 2018, 320.5 in 2018, 408.9 in 2017. In that group are injury busts, victims of bad quarterback play, and receivers who just weren’t or aren’t very good. But that’s the risk teams take in the draft.”
Even with an influx of young talent, Shaffer pointed to the lack of established receivers on the depth chart behind Willie Snead IV and Roberts.
“Chris Moore, who’s entering the final year of his rookie deal, didn’t have a game with more than 30 receiving yards last season,” Shaffer wrote. “Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott must show improvement after quiet rookie years.”
The Ravens have made it known that they’re going to feature a run-first offensive attack, as evidenced by their success during the second half of last season and promotion of Greg Roman.
Wide receivers may not put up big numbers in this offense, but you can certainly argue that the group is more explosive.
Brown was one of the most dynamic receivers in college football last season and offers a skillset that the Ravens didn’t have at receiver last season. He’s a player who can score each time he touches the football and can be used in a variety of different roles.
“If Brown pans out, he is going to be the big play-maker of this offense,” Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler wrote. “Boykin might become Jackson’s go-to weapon, but Brown will be his most dangerous one.”
Boykin is a big-bodied target with reliable hands that were displayed during the team’s rookie minicamp.
“[Boykin] perfectly complements Hollywood to bring the yin and yang, but his 4.42 speed can still take the top off, making them contrasting, yet strangely interchangeable to a degree,” Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz wrote.[space]“This will prevent defenses from knowing what to expect on a play to play basis. The versatility will Boykin and Brown to play at X, Z, or H keeping defenses on their toes.”
Both receivers are in a unique situation where they’ll be able to contribute right away, so we’ll see about Shaffer’s prediction.
Four Ravens Who Could Be on the Trading Block
With the offseason in full swing, RavensWire’s Matthew Stevens highlighted four players who could be on the trading block: Kaare Vedvik, Kenneth Dixon, Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott.
Of course, this is pure speculation, and there haven’t been any actual reports of trade rumors from the team.
Vedvik impressed during preseason play last year and went 8-for-9 on field goal attempts before suffering injuries that forced him to miss the 2018 season.
Now healthy, Vedvik seems like the most obvious candidate, given that Justin Tucker recently signed a four-year extension.
“This offseason, Baltimore has been transparent that they’ll look to trade Vedvik if they can find a partner,” Stevens wrote. “With how important kicking has been around the league, there’s bound to be a few teams interested in giving up a Day 3 draft selection to have a strong-legged and accurate kicker like Vedvik.”
Dixon served as a key contributor in the run game down the stretch last season, totaling 333 yards and two touchdowns in six games, but a crowded running back group could make earning playing time difficult.
“They have last year’s starter, Gus Edwards, and added Mark Ingram through free agency and Justice Hill through the draft,” Stevens wrote. “That, combined with Dixon’s injury and suspension history, will leave him with an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster.”
Speaking of depth, the safety position could get tricky, according to Stevens.
With Tony Jefferson and Earl Thomas as the established starters, the Ravens could have decisions to make regarding Clark and Elliott. However, it seems unlikely. Elliott missed his entire rookie season after suffering a fractured forearm and Clark was one of the team’s top special teams contributors last season.
Former Ravens Scouts in Consideration for Jets Front Office Jobs
The front office tree under Ozzie Newsome (and Eric DeCosta) could be expanding.
After the surprise firing of Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan yesterday, two former Ravens scouts, Joe Douglas and Daniel Jeremiah, are being discussed as potential candidates for front office roles in New York.
Douglas is in his third season as vice president of player personnel with the Eagles. He began his career in Baltimore working in the personnel department for 16 years under Newsome.
Douglas worked with Adam Gase in Chicago.
Jeremiah also began his career with the Ravens and served as a college scout. He joined NFL Network as an analyst in 2012 and could follow in the footsteps of colleague Mike Mayock, who was hired as the Raiders’[add] general manager in December.
Douglas and Jeremiah are reportedly close friends and could come in a package deal to the Jets, Schefter said.
If that’s the case, the Ravens could be in danger of losing pieces in the personnel department, says The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec.
John Urschel Discusses Love for Math, Life After Football, And His New Book
There isn’t another athlete quite like John Urschel.
The former fifth-round pick spent three seasons in Baltimore, playing in 40 games and serving as a key offensive lineman before abruptly retiring before the start of the 2017 season to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Urschel’s book “Mind and Mater: A Life in Math and Football” was released Tuesday. He joined Glenn Clark Radio and spoke about juggling the two passions in his life.
“The book was really a representation of what my life was like,” Urschel said. “It really was these two things all day, every day … Both were [math and football] just huge parts of my life.”
Urschel carried a 4.0-grade point average and earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in mathematics during his time at Penn State. He spoke with Clark about his devotion to the subject, how he’d evaluate his career as a late-round pick, and the appreciation playing alongside Marshal Yanda.
“Marshal is truly amazing at what he does,” Urschel said. “He’s truly the best. Baltimore is unreasonably lucky to have him. … He is an amazing football player.”