When's the last time you heard "Baltimore Ravens" and "league's best wide receivers" in the same sentence?
The clamoring for wide receivers, and questioning of the unit when training camp rolled around, has been a yearly ritual in Baltimore.
Not this year.
With Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman slated as the team's leading trio, Baltimore has a lot of explosiveness on the outside. And the trio didn't shy away from sharing its high expectations.
"We expect to be the best in the league," Wallace said Wednesday. "People look over us, but we don't care. … We expect to have three 1,000-yard [receivers] if we can."
"I think we should expect to be the best trio in the league," Maclin echoed Thursday. "That's what we should expect and work for."
The Ravens' top competition for best trio may be the rival Pittsburgh Steelers (Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers/JuJu Smith-Schuster). There's also the New York Giants (Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard), Green Bay Packers (Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb) and New England Patriots (Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Mitchell).
There have only been five teams in NFL history to have three 1,000-yard pass catchers. Here's the list:
1980 Chargers: John Jefferson (1,340 yards), Kellen Winslow (1,290), Charlie Joiner (1,132)
1989 Redskins: Gary Clark (1,229), Art Monk (1,196), Ricky Sanders (1,138)
1995 Falcons: Eric Metcalf (1,189), Terance Mathis (1,039), Bert Emanuel (1,039)
2004 Colts: Reggie Wayne (1,210), Marvin Harrison (1,113), Brandon Stokley (1,077)
2008 Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald (1,431), Anquan Boldin (1,038), Steve Breaston (1,006)
The Ravens have only once had a duo of receivers reach 1,000 yards. It was in the team's inaugural 1996 season (Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander). Since Head Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco's arrival in 2008, the Ravens have had one 1,000-yard receiver in five of their nine seasons.
Even if the Ravens don't have the league's best trio and they don't all reach 1,000 yards, it should still be a very good unit.
Wallace posted 1,017 yards last year and is looking to duplicate, or improve on, that this season.
Like Wallace was last year at this time, Maclin is coming off a down year with another team (Kansas City Chiefs) and is looking for a rebound. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Maclin posted 44 catches for 536 yards and two touchdowns last year.
"I'm excited. I'm excited from a personal standpoint, but also from a team standpoint," Maclin said. "Like everyone has been saying, this is a good group, a very talented group.
"You look at all three of us [wide receivers], and we all add something different to the table. We're also three guys who have the ability to do it all."
Then there's Perriman, who flashed during his second season in which he posted 33 catches for 499 yards and three touchdowns. Perriman was the star of the team's Organized Team Activities and was a frequent target of long bombs on the first day of training camp practice.
Wallace said Perriman's strong offseason was "just a little taste" of what fans are going to see in the regular season.
"I think [Perriman] started to do it at the end of last year. It was just that me and Steve [Smith Sr.] were out there for the bulk of the time. But when he was out there, he was making plays the more and more he was out there," Wallace said.
"Just to see his skillset and the way he works every day, I think he is going to make a big jump and he is going to impress a lot of people and show why he was a first-round pick."