Sammy Watkins 'Brings Instant Credibility to Ravens'
The Ravens have devoted significant draft capital over the past three years to providing Lamar Jackson with more weapons in the passing game.
In signing veteran Sammy Watkins in free agency this offseason, the Ravens gained a steadying influence who can mentor the young receivers in addition to being a playmaker.
"The more the Ravens have struggled in the postseason — they lost in the Divisional Round in both the 2019 and 2020 playoffs — the more critics have pointed to a one-dimensional offense as the major problem in their failures. Watkins brings instant credibility to the Ravens because he heard those complaints and still wanted to be in Baltimore," NFL.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha wrote.
It's no secret that staying healthy has been an issue for Watkins, but the 28-year-old's talent is undeniable. That talent was on full display two years ago when he helped the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl.
Watkins had seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game and five catches for 98 yards in the Super Bowl.
"There's a reason why Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid once said his high-powered offense functioned better when Watkins was on the field," Chadiha wrote. "Watkins — who sat out eight games last season, including playoffs, and barely played in a Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay — swears that his body is right at this point. He feels like he's 19 years old instead of 28 and writes off those past injuries to the belief that 'everything happens for a reason.'
"Watkins also is candid about his intention to deliver more of that postseason success than his regular-season disappearances. The desire to dominate hasn't abandoned a receiver who spent most of the last three years feasting heavily on underneath routes instead of making splashier plays."
Watkins, who has been a standout in training camp, said he feels like he's going to have one of his best seasons.
"I'm lifting the weights. I have great coaches coaching me. And my mentality is totally different," Watkins said. "I'm trying to get the ball on every play. In Kansas City, I looked at it like, 'I'll play my role. Let me open Tyreek Hill up. Let me open Travis Kelce up.' Now it's like I'm not worried about getting somebody else open. I'm thinking, 'I'm going to beat this dude and get the ball.'"
Chadiha wrote: "Watkins hopes every other receiver on the Ravens brings a similar tenacity to the position. He's spent ample time reinforcing that message, especially on a roster with so many young players. This team won't lack for variety or depth with regard to the men catching Jackson's passes. What's vital is that they're all on the same page about what the Ravens offense is trying to become, that there are more than enough balls to go around when you're winning."
Pro Football Focus: Rashod Bateman Could Transform Receiving Corps
Watkins paid rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman a high compliment last week when he said the first-round pick is "already a pro."
Pro Football Focus' Doug Kyed believes Bateman has a chance to transform the Ravens' receiving group.
"The Ravens will certainly continue to rely heavily on Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and their rushing attack. But the addition of Bateman and Watkins should give Jackson more wiggle room in the passing game, as well," Kyed wrote.
Kyed liked what he saw from Bateman during yesterday's practice. Bateman, who has been dealing with muscle tightness, made several catches over the middle working against All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
"The Baltimore Ravens defense is playing on easy mode in training camp this summer, with quarterback Lamar Jackson on the COVID-19 list and other key players out with various maladies. But rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman still manages to give the unit some trouble," Kyed wrote. "Bateman looked like the Ravens' best offensive player Wednesday in camp, and he's still clearly trying to shake a minor injury."
Kyed is not alone in his praise for Bateman. As noted in yesterday's Late for Work, NFL Network analyst and former wide receiver Andrew Hawkins predicts Bateman will make the biggest impact of any of the top wide receivers taken in this year's draft.
"What he is going to bring to the table for them is much needed," Hawkins said. "He has been the source of a bunch of big catches throughout training camp. He is a smart player. He is fast, he is big, he is physical. Honestly, he's probably further along in his development as an NFL wide receiver than most of the young guys because he can run routes, he can get out of breaks, he has body positioning. I expect him to have a huge season. What he's going to bring to the Baltimore Ravens is definitely going to be a God-send for Lamar Jackson."
Former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, one of the team's best draft picks at the position, brought his LEVEL82 group of kids to practice yesterday and Smith came away impressed by the wide receivers. And this is without Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown on the field (hamstring)
Jamison Hensley Predicts Jackson Extension Won't Happen Before Start of Regular Season
ESPN's Dan Graziano wrote a couple weeks ago that the industry buzz was that Jackson would be the first of the 2018 first-round quarterbacks to sign a contract extension, but ESPN's Jamison Hensley predicted a deal with Jackson won't get done before the start of the regular season.
"There has been a lot of speculation that Jackson will be the first in the 2018 quarterback draft class to sign a long-term deal, but it could be time to pump the brakes on that," Hensley wrote. "The quarterback and the Ravens have expressed optimism that a deal will get struck, and it's likely a formality at this point. But Jackson could increase his value with another MVP-like season, and there's no urgency from Baltimore's perspective because he is under contract through the 2022 season. It's more realistic that he signs a big-money extension next offseason."
Conversely, Marcel Louis-Jacques, who covers the Buffalo Bills for ESPN, predicted Josh Allen will sign an extension before the start of the regular season.
"[Bills General Manager Brandon] Beane said the organization won't be worried if a deal doesn't get done until next year, but he has a track record (see: Tre'Davious White and Dion Dawkins) for getting these deals done before the buzzer," Louis-Jacques wrote. "There's a chance Allen's market value will rise even further with another MVP-caliber season, and the Bills might want to finalize something before the Ravens do with Lamar Jackson."
To Louis-Jacques' point, whichever deal is completed first would likely impact the negotiations of the other quarterback's extension.