Receivers Proving Critics Wrong

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Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton isn't one to brag or engage in a war of words.

But if he were, he would have a good comeback for NFL analyst Keyshawn Johnson and the rest of the Ravens receiver haters who called the unit – Clayton included – "bums" earlier this season.

Just look at the stats.

"It might not be too bad," Clayton said with a laugh. "But I'm not going to throw nothing in anybody's face."

Clayton and the other Ravens receivers have increased their production across the board through six games when compared to last year. That is certainly boosted by Joe Flacco's emergence this season, but the sophomore quarterback isn't catching his own passes.

The Ravens are averaging 268.3 yards per game through the air this season, good for eighth in the NFL. Last year, Baltimore averaged 175.5 passing yards per game, placing them 28th in the league. Receivers have caught six touchdown passes already compared to one last year through six games.

"Just look at the productivity," said Derrick Mason, the group's unquestioned leader. "We don't need a big name in here. We can match up with any two or three-receiver tandem out there. We'll stack up and be just as good or even better than them.

"A big name doesn't mean anything. Are you able to go out there week in and week out and be competitive and make plays when we need them? That's what we've been able to do."

Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens' management backed their receivers this offseason when Baltimore fans – as they have done for a decade or longer -- clamored for the team to draft, trade for or sign a big-name, big-game vertical threat.

Ravens management gave the group another vote of confidence this Tuesday when the 4 p.m. trade deadline came and went without a move. By then, even fans' screams for another wide receiver had quieted to chirps, despite reports that the Ravens were interested in the Bills' Terrell Owens and perhaps Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe.

"Obviously, for the most part they're having tremendous success," Harbaugh said of the receivers. "We've believed all along that we've got guys that can make plays – so-called 'playmakers.'"

None of the Ravens' wideouts identified a specific part of the game they had changed or were doing better than before. They simply said the offense has clicked behind a strong offensive line protecting the budding Flacco, and with one more year in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system.

Clayton has made the biggest jump, despite playing the goat in the Ravens' loss to the New England Patriots in Week 4. He has nearly tripled his production, going from 98 yards and no touchdowns through six games last year to 270 yards and two touchdowns this season.

"We've made our mistakes and we've still surpassed where we were last year as an offense," Clayton said. "But I've been the same since my rookie year, dude. I've only got one speed."
Mason has maintained his steady production with 381 yards this season, seven more yards than last year. He has three touchdown receptions compared to one at this point last season.

A major difference has been in the slot, where free-agent acquisition Kelley Washington has given the Ravens a tall receiver with a knack for converting on third down.

Coming off a season where he caught one pass for three yards, Washington has 20 catches for 267 yards and a touchdown so far this season. Comparatively, last year's No. 3 wide receiver, Demetrius Williams, had 12 catches for 110 yards over the first six games.

Even Williams got into the action this past Sunday when the Ravens put up 385 aerial yards on the Minnesota Vikings. Williams notched his first catch of the season for 17 yards to convert a key third-and-10 to keep an eventual touchdown drive alive.

"We understand each other and all of the receivers do things differently," Washington said. "There's guys that can run good routes, there's bigger guys like myself, there's speed guys like Demetrius. We understand each other's talents."

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