Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote that the Ravens' receiver depth chart is the "worst in the league right now." ESPN's Jamison Hensley says quarterback Joe Flacco will be working with the Ravens' "junior varsity offense."
Well, the Ravens' Week 5 receivers are listening.
"Hearing that kind of stuff … I'm being real political right now, but that can definitely light a fire under you," rookie sixth-round receiver Darren Waller said.
The Ravens wide receivers will most likely be without their injured leader, Steve Smith Sr., on Sunday. They're also down Michael Campanaro (back) and still longing for rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman (knee).
That leaves Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Waller and recently acquired Chris Givens as the team's four wide receivers against Cleveland.
Aiken and Brown are former undrafted rookies. Waller is a sixth-round rookie who caught his first career pass Thursday night in Pittsburgh. Givens will have just four Ravens practices under his belt before he suits up at M&T Bank Stadium.
The foursome has a combined 21 catches for 264 yards and one touchdown so far this season. Smith has 29 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns on the year.
Part of the reason for that, however, has been opportunity. Smith has been targeted by 47 passes already this season. Aiken, Brown, Waller and Givens have a collective 38 targets.
On Monday, Aiken was asked what it's going to be like being the Ravens' sudden No. 1 receiver. He didn't exactly like the question.
"What is a No. 1 receiver?" Aiken retorted. "I wouldn't know what to say. I feel like all of us are top threats. It just depends where the ball goes that day."
While the remaining wide receiver corps hasn't made a lot of plays yet this season, they've shown themselves capable before.
When the Ravens didn't replace Anquan Boldin following the 2012 Super Bowl season, Brown started 12 games and tied a franchise rookie record with seven touchdown receptions.
Aiken has steadily climbed up the pecking order and helped carry Baltimore last week in Pittsburgh, especially when Smith went down. He caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, including a huge 20-yard grab that put the Ravens in field-goal range for Justin Tucker's game-tying 42-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
Givens is itching for his chance to prove himself after being shuffled down the Rams' depth chart. He was a 12-game starter as a rookie in 2012, catching 42 passes for 698 yards and three scores, but has since seen his opportunities dwindle.
Now each player will have their chance, and they're eager to make the most of it.
"It's going to be a little bit challenging for us on* *offense, but it's just the way it is," Flacco said. "We wouldn't want it any other way. These are the guys that are going to go out there and make plays for us, start making a name for themselves and help us win, so I'm excited about it."
Flacco isn't blind to the fact that it's going to be a bit more difficult. He said the receiver situation is "definitely not ideal."
But in his usual fashion, Flacco shrugged it off and is moving forward with one thing in mind – winning.
"We just have to get them rolling [and] have confidence that they're going to go out there and do the job, because they're our guys right now, and they have a lot of ability, and we can't treat them any other way," Flacco said.
Flacco has dealt with wide receiver turnover before. The longest he's played with one was four years and that was Torrey Smith, who is now in San Francisco. His "top" target has shuffled from Derrick Mason to Boldin to Torrey Smith to Steve Smith.
Through it all, Flacco has found his targets. Aiken, who bounced between the Bills, Bears and Patriots before landing with the Ravens, said Flacco is unlike other quarterbacks he's played with.
"It doesn't really matter the name on the back of the jersey; he's going to find whoever is open," Aiken said. "When you have quarterbacks like that, it encourages you to run your route to win every time, because you [don't know] if the ball is coming your way."
While the Ravens' rediscovered ground game could pave the way Sunday in Cleveland, Flacco and the receivers will still have to make plays and move the chains when it's their turn.
"I don't care who's on the field – what they're doing – it's about executing your offense, and we're fully capable of doing that," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Doubters be damned.
"It's definitely a little pissed off feeling, but it's controlled anger," Brown said. "We just want to take that anger, focus in and play great on Sunday to prove everybody wrong."