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Late for Work 5/10: Ravens' Wide Receiver Trio Ranks No. 18 in NFL

WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Rashod Bateman, WR Zay Flowers
WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Rashod Bateman, WR Zay Flowers

Ravens' Wide Receiver Trio Might Be Strongest in Franchise History

After the Ravens' wide receivers finished last in the league in receiving yards last season, the team's decision-makers made revamping the unit a top offseason priority.

To that end, Baltimore landed three-time Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr., drafted Zay Flowers in the first round, and signed veteran Nelson Agholor.

Those additions, combined with holdovers Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay and others, give the Ravens a wide receiving corps that figures to be vastly improved under new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken.

High expectations for the group were reflected in ESPN's Mike Clay's team wide receiver rankings, as the Ravens jumped to No. 18.

"For as much as the Ravens pass-catching situation has been ridiculed over the past few seasons, they head into this season with a really diverse group," Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness wrote. "If everyone can stay healthy, the trio of Beckham, Rashod Bateman and Zay Flowers look like the strongest trio they have had in a long time, perhaps even in the history of the franchise."

Understandably, the acquisitions of Beckham and Flowers have gotten the most attention, but what a healthy Bateman brings to the offense should not be overlooked.

Bateman, who has missed 16 games in his two NFL seasons and underwent season-ending Lisfranc foot surgery last November, has shown flashes of why the Ravens drafted him in the first round in 2021.

"Some of the reason that Bateman's impact might be getting downplayed goes back to that old football cliché of the greatest ability being availability," Russell Street Report’s Kevin McNelis wrote. "He seems to be on the mend following Lisfranc surgery, and now brings his first-round talent into a new offensive scheme flanked by legitimate weapons. For me, there's no reason he can't become WR1 in this offense."

Lamar Jackson is so excited about his receiving corps that he said he wants to throw for 6,000 yards this season. His single-season career high for passing yards is 3,127 in 2019.

Not everyone is sold on the Ravens' new-look receiving group, though.

"I'm just not convinced that adding a 30-year-old Odell Beckham coming off two ACL tears, Nelson Agholor, and a draft pick are going to be enough to get him to some huge passing number," ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said.

Fowler makes a fair point, but there's no denying that on paper the Ravens have significantly upgraded their wide receiver room.

"That doesn't rival the receiving corps that we see in Miami or other places, [but] by Ravens standards that's actually sort of a murders' row," ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said. "That's a pretty good group considering what [Jackson] has had to deal with in the past."

Jackson and the Ravens Are Must-See TV

With anticipation building for the unveiling of the NFL schedule tomorrow night, analysts were asked which team should play in the most prime-time games this season. David Carr selected the Ravens.

"Lamar Jackson collected his money, and the Ravens locked in their quarterback. Both sides got what they wanted. Now the NFL should give the people what they want: Jackson in prime time," Carr wrote. "When he's healthy, the veteran quarterback is one of the most electric players in the league. I don't care who the opponent is, though Baltimore does have some intriguing non-division matchups, with the Jaguars, 49ers, Chargers, Dolphins, Seahawks and Lions all on the coming slate. Bottom line: Lamar should get more opportunities under the lights to prove why he's the NFL's highest-paid player."

A different question was posed on "Good Morning Football": Which AFC quarterback's Week 1 game will you be circling? Kyle Brandt went with Jackson.

"I want to see Lamar," Brandt said. "I want to see Lamar with the new receivers. He's got a rookie receiver; he's got an old, really famous receiver; he's got a receiver who used to be a rookie and now is coming off an injury; and he has a massive new contract. I don't care who he's playing; I want to watch Lamar Jackson. That's an easy one."

Bleacher Report Predicts Ravens Will Miss the Playoffs in 2023

Despite the Ravens being perennial playoff contenders and having a strong offseason, Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton named them one of five teams who won't return to the playoffs after qualifying last year.

"At first mention, the idea of leaving the Baltimore Ravens out of the playoff picture seems like NFL blasphemy. … That being said, let's peel back the concerning layers of the Ravens squad," Moton wrote.

"First and foremost, Jackson must adjust to a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken, who had success at Georgia, where they had superior talent to most programs in the nation. On the pro level, the Ravens' new play-caller isn't going to have that advantage with mostly even competition across the league. In Monken's last NFL stint, he served as the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator, and his unit ranked 22nd in scoring and yards. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski replaced Freddie Kitchens' staff, including Monken, and led a playoff-bound Cleveland club to the playoffs with a moderately improved offense and a more efficient version of Baker Mayfield under center.

"Sure, Jackson is a dynamic playmaker, but he may go through some rough patches in a new system after four years under Greg Roman. Unlike Monken, Roman fielded a top-12 scoring offense for multiple pro seasons before he arrived in Baltimore. Secondly, if Jackson continues to miss a handful of games in a season, the Ravens could lose ground to teams like the New York Jets and Denver Broncos in a potential AFC wild-card race."

Moton also said Baltimore's defense could struggle to generate pocket pressure with the losses of veterans Calais Campbell and Justin Houston (who still could re-sign).

"Baltimore needs David Ojabo to make an immediate impact after he tore his Achilles at Michigan's pro day last year," Moton wrote. "Also, Odafe Oweh must make a third-year leap, and Tyus Bowser has to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2022 campaign, or else, opposing quarterbacks will have ample time to throw downfield."

Is a Contract Extension in Justin Madubuike's Future?

General Manager Eric DeCosta said on “The Lounge” podcast this week that he wants to sign inside linebacker Patrick Queen to a contract extension if he can. Another player who could be in line for an extension is defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.

A 2020 third-round pick, Madubuike improved every year and started 27 games over the past two seasons.

"Madubuike is eligible for free agency after the upcoming season," Zrebiec wrote. "He's coming off his best season, as he had 5.5 sacks and 42 tackles last year. He's still only 25 years old. With every member of the projected defensive line rotation except one entering the final year of their deals, extending Madubuike would provide some much-needed stability at a key position and lock up an ascending player."

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