Keyshawn Johnson: Keith Williams Will Make Receiving Corps 20 Times Better
The Ravens' desire to upgrade their passing attack is evident by the additions of veteran Sammy Watkins and draft picks Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace.
However, in the opinion of ESPN analyst and former Pro Bowl wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, there wasn't a more impactful offseason addition to the passing attack than Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams.
Johnson believes Williams will help the Ravens' promising wide receiving corps realize its full potential. Johnson would know, as Williams coached his son, Keyshawn Johnson Jr., at Nebraska.
"The Baltimore Ravens and [Head Coach John] Harbaugh, I've got to tip my hat to them. They got it right," Johnson said, via The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer. "Their receiving corps is going to be 20 times better than it was in the past, and that's not taking anything away from Coach [David] Culley, because Coach Culley did an amazing job [as wide receivers coach] for many years in the NFL. But this is different."
Williams coached wide receivers at the collegiate level for 18 years, including with Nebraska from 2015-2017. Most recently, he has built a reputation as a personal coach for several top NFL wide receivers, including Watkins, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams.
"I don't look at it as a guru," Johnson said. "I look at it as somebody who knows the details about the position because he played the position. And I look at it as far as knowing what they're supposed to look like and what they're supposed to do. To me, that's the magic of a coach: When you can take an unfinished product, or product that's less than what others think it should be, and shape it and mold it into something that everybody wants. To me, that's a coach."
Ravens Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin, who was hired this offseason to replace Culley, said he and Williams complement each other.
"He's really into the techniques, drill work, things of that nature," Martin said. "I come in as the guy who's coaching the wide receivers, doing the installations and also technique and all those things as well. I think we work together. I'm learning from him. He's learning from me. It's a great working relationship."
Watkins said having Williams and Martin working together is "one of the best situations that any young wide receiver or any receiver can be in."
Williams' son, Keyan, told Shaffer that his father loves working with the Ravens' young receivers.
"He's got young guys. They're all eager to learn," said Keyan, a graduate assistant at Tulane. "That's one thing that's big with him: eager to learn. And from what he told me, he loves it."
Qadry Ismail Weighs in on Whether Ravens Have a No. 1 Wide Receiver
Despite the optimism about the Ravens having an improved passing game, Baltimore's lack of a "true No. 1 wide receiver" is an annual offseason topic of discussion, and the talk was even more fervent this year.
Whether the Ravens need a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver in their run-heavy offense is another debate entirely. But is it possible the Ravens have that elusive player on their current roster?
Former Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail weighed in on the topic during an appearance on the "Upon Further Review Podcast." Ismail said it remains to be seen if the Ravens have an "upper-tier elite" wide receiver, but he believes they do have some "go-to-type" receivers.
"Rashod Bateman, there's a lot of talk about him and what he's done so far," Ismail said. "Wallace, even though he's a later pick, but so what? I think he has a tremendous amount of talent. It's the development of the chemistry, the development of [Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman feeling comfortable in certain situations based on what they've done in practice.
"Giving Lamar [Jackson] an opportunity to get the ball out to his receivers, developing that chemistry and that chemistry now in turn, you look back on it and you've got guys having 1,500 yards receiving, you've got guys having 80-90 catches to their resume. That's where you can start to define it. But just to make the blanket statement, we don't know yet. We know that there are some go-to guys on the roster. Let's see what happens from there."
The returning player who could reach No. 1 status is Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who figures to be freed up for more big plays with defenses having to also pay attention to Bateman, Wallace and Watkins. The 2019 first-round pick certainly wouldn't be the first NFL receiver to make a significant leap from Year 2 to Year 3.
Brown led the Ravens with 769 receiving yards last season and has scored 15 touchdowns in 25 career regular-season games. In three postseason games, he has 18 catches for 322 yards.
Whether or not a "true No. 1" emerges, "Good Morning Football's" Kay Adams believes the Ravens have the most intriguing wide receiver group in the league in 2021.
"I think that their leap to try to be at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles has a lot to do with this group's ability to take a big step," Adams said. "This team can run, they can play defense, but in big moments in the playoffs I really don't think they had surrounded [Jackson] with enough talent. They've done so. I love the steps they took, and if it all comes together, I do think we could see these Ravens in the Super Bowl."
Nate Burleson: Ravens Will Be Most Fun Team to Watch in 2021
NFL Network's Willie McGinest also thinks the Ravens could end up in the Super Bowl.
The consensus is that the Ravens and Cleveland Browns are the two best teams in the AFC North, but McGinest said he likes the Ravens to win the division and possibly prevent the Kansas City Chiefs from making a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
"There is no question that they did everything in their power to put more explosive skill-set and weapons around Lamar Jackson to go out and elevate the passing game," McGinest said. "Now we know they were the best team in rushing the football … but they're going to open it up in the passing game. They're going to continue to control the trenches and run the football, and their defense did get better.
"If they can keep everybody healthy, they got three guys on the back end that can cover and go toe-to-toe with guys like the Chiefs that have multiple receivers on the outside. And they can generate pass rush now. So when you look at a balanced team, a team that has everything, that elevated in everything they were doing in the offseason, it has to be the Ravens coming out of that division."
Meanwhile, "Good Morning Football's" Nate Burleson said the Ravens will be the most fun team in the NFL to watch in 2021.
"I think we forget just how good Lamar Jackson was when he was as dominant as he was," Burleson said. "We're talking about that unanimous MVP season. I want Lamar Jackson to get back to that. The Ravens dealt with a lot last year. They dealt with COVID-19 … and they still ended up doing their thing at the end of the season.
"I feel like Lamar Jackson will come back and he'll come back with a vengeance."
Future Headlines From a Successful Regular Season
Russell Street Report's Darin McCann looked into his crystal ball and came up with a list of headlines in January 2022 that would translate into the Ravens having a successful regular season. Here are some excerpts:
Tyus Bowser, Patrick Queen headline Ravens' first-timers at Pro Bowl
"These two making significant jumps this season would go a long way toward alleviating any concerns with the Ravens' front seven, as well as putting up a strong signal for the future of the defense, as the team certainly hopes some of these young players become cornerstones moving forward."
Ravens' passing production generates optimism for deep playoff run
"A passing offense in 2021 that produces good vibes heading into the playoffs would most likely mean a good showing by the merry band of receivers the team has assembled this season, a solid performance by the re-worked offensive line, a new schematic approach and a step forward by star quarterback Lamar Jackson. All of these words are good words to Ravens fans."
Calais Campbell's impact felt in stats, locker room
"If Campbell can impact opposing quarterbacks, help nullify running backs and swat several balls from ever reaching a receiver, the defense could elevate to a whole new level. Campbell is a key component up front to everything the Ravens are trying to accomplish on defense."