Young Wide Receiving Corps Could Take Passing Offense to New Heights
Ravens running backs get plenty of love from the pundits, and rightfully so. Conversely, the team's wide receiving corps is rarely lavished with praise.
The latter sentiment could be changing, however. Case in point: "Good Morning Football's" Peter Schrager said the Ravens will have the best passing offense in the AFC North this season.
Schrager based his assessment not only on the fact that Lamar Jackson led the league in touchdown passes last season (and Mark Andrews led all tight ends with 10 touchdowns), but also because of an emerging nucleus of young, talented wide receivers.
"This isn't Odell [Beckham Jr.] and Jarvis [Landry], I get it. These aren't the names you're used to hearing," Schrager said. "I'm just looking at production. When you run the ball like the Ravens will run the ball … you open yourself up to big passing plays with explosive offensive potential."
Marquise "Hollywood" Brown showed flashes of how explosive he can be last season despite being hampered by a screw in his foot. Now that Brown is fully healthy and has added 23 pounds of muscle, many pundits believe he will blow up in his second season.
Second-year wide receiver Miles Boykin also is expected to make a big leap this year, and rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche II have potential to make an impact. All of them have been impressive in training camp.
"An impressive training camp isn't new for Boykin," The Baltimore Sun's Daniel Oyefusi wrote. "As a rookie, it was Boykin, not fellow draftmate Marquise Brown, who flashed his potential. But growing pains hampered what were big expectations for the third-round pick out of Notre Dame.
"In his second year, he's been up to the task, whether confronted with internal or external competition. A day after reports emerged that Dez Bryant was being brought in for a workout, Boykin had perhaps his best practice to date with several acrobatic catches. In one-on-one matchups against the defense's top corners and other team drills, he's made several plays."
Duvernay and Proche have shown why they were two of the most sure-handed receivers in college football.
"Duvernay has gotten open downfield as much as any wideout this summer," Oyefusi wrote. "In one-on-one drills, he's shown a savvy ability to separate from defensive backs, flying past cornerback Marcus Peters for long gains on several occasions.
"Like his draftmate, Proche has displayed a knack for getting open, particularly on in-breaking routes over the middle of the field. Proche had one of the most impressive catches of practice, beating two defensive backs to haul in a full-extension, leaping grab."
We're not forgetting about Willie Snead IV, the veteran of the group at 27 years old. A physical receiver and excellent blocker, Snead scored a career-high five touchdowns last year and dropped weight this offseason to increase his speed.
J.K. Dobbins Is Earning Rave Reviews
Eyebrows were raised when the Ravens drafted a running back in the second round, but it becomes more obvious every day that they got a steal by nabbing J.K. Dobbins with the 55th-overall pick.
"Dobbins has been all over the field, taking handoffs, catching both short and deep passes and even playing on different special teams units," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "If you haven't seen him, you've certainly heard him. The second-round pick out of Ohio State has brought energy and swagger to practices.
"Mark Ingram remains the starter and Gus Edwards still figures to get his touches, but Dobbins will have a role in Week 1. That was the expectation going into camp and Dobbins has proven that he deserves one with how dynamic he's looked."
Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens and Kevin Oestreicher placed Dobbins at No. 1 on their list of Ravens players who've earned rave reviews during training camp.
"Despite how crowded the Ravens running back room is, Dobbins is expected to contribute a lot during the 2020 season," Stevens and Oestreicher wrote. "He rushed for over 2,000 yards in his final year at Ohio State and also is a good pass catcher. He's the eventual heir to the Baltimore backfield once Mark Ingram retires, and so far he's off to a great start."
Dobbins' performance thus far has not been lost on Running Backs Coach Matt Weiss.
"J.K., I've been really impressed with," Weiss said. "I think every day, his athleticism, his physicality, his vision – all the things that make a great running back – show up on the field. I think honestly, though, I've been even more impressed with his mindset, of his make-up, which is really his competitiveness, his work ethic. He's kind of wired a little bit differently."
Analyzing Two Key Position Battles on the Offensive Line
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz assessed how two key position competitions on the offensive line are progressing.
One of the biggest questions this offseason was how the Ravens would fill the void at right guard left by the retirement of Marshal Yanda. Veteran D.J. Fluker, who signed with the Ravens in May and reported to training camp in the best shape of his career, has emerged as the clear favorite, according to Kasinitz.
"He moves with the fluidity that makes it easy to understand why he was a first-round pick in 2013," Kasinitz wrote. " … Fluker has played well in training camp. He's doing nothing to indicate that he's no longer a starting-caliber right guard."
With the regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns just 17 days away, time is running out for rookies Ben Bredeson and Tyre Phillips to beat out Fluker for playing time early in the season, Kasinitz wrote.
One player not mentioned by Kasinitz is Ben Powers. The 2019 fourth-round pick was inactive for all but one game last season and appears to have his work cut out for him.
"It was expected that Powers would get a long look for the starting right guard job, but there's been no evidence that he's really been in the mix," Zrebiec wrote. "He's also had his hands full with [rookie defensive tackle Justin] Madubuike during workouts."
Kasinitz said the biggest question might exist at center.
"Matt Skura, who made 27 straight starts at the position for the Ravens before tearing three knee ligaments in November, began taking team repetitions in practice for the first time over the weekend," Kasinitz wrote. "Patrick Mekari filled in admirably for Skura down the stretch last season. He's a better-than-average placeholder. And that means the Ravens might not only need to decide if Skura is healthy enough to suit up against the Browns but also if he can provide better play than Mekari."
Torrey Smith Co-Hosting an NFL Radio Show
Torrey was a great media talker, just not trash talker
Earlier this month, Torrey Smith made his debut as co-host of "The Opening Drive" on SiriusXM NFL Radio with former NFL defensive back Solomon Wilcots. The show airs Monday mornings from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
"I used to do interviews with [Wilcots] all the time as a player," Smith told The Baltimore Sun. "And after I retired, I had the opportunity to switch to the other side of the table to be an analyst. It's been pretty cool so far. It's a different kind of challenge. ... You realize how talented the people are that are asking questions and creating a flow of an interview."
Smith, who played the first four of his eight seasons in the NFL in Baltimore, will also continue to do the podcast he launched several months ago, "Trending Thoughts with Torrey Smith," in which he discusses a variety of topics, including sports, news, politics and parenting.
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