Perhaps some receivers bought into it, but Sammy Watkins isn't worried about the narrative of joining a run-heavy offense in Baltimore. In fact, he welcomes the opportunity to help diversify it.
No team ran the ball more, or better, than the Ravens the past two years. Conversely, nobody threw it fewer times than Baltimore over that span either.
That led to pundits questioning whether free-agent wide receivers would want to sign up for Baltimore's offense. Wide receivers often want to put up big numbers, and that can be tougher with fewer opportunities.
But that's not how Watkins is thinking. He said he didn't have concerns about joining Baltimore's unconventional, yet very effective, offense led by Lamar Jackson and designed by Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman.
After all, Watkins has experience working with Roman. His most productive season came in Roman's offense in Buffalo in 2015 when Watkins topped 1,000 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
"I'm not going to worry about where that ball goes. If we run the ball every play and win games, and that's what it takes, [then] that's what we have to do," Watkins said.
"But having that experience in [Roman's] offense before, he does a lot of different things to mix it up. If we can maximize and get better at the passing game and throw a little bit more, kudos to it. But if we can line up and Lamar run the ball and let all these other great running backs in the backfield tote us to [the] playoffs or, hopefully, the Super Bowl – I'm down for it."
Watkins said he went back and watched some of his 2015 film in Roman's offense. He took note of how Roman used him in a number of different ways.
"[Roman] found so many special ways to get me the ball – whether it was quick on a shallow, whether it was a double-move, whether it was going deep," Watkins said. "I just can't wait. He's going to utilize us in so many different ways. He's got a complex offense. I know the world hasn't been seeing that yet, but he's definitely going to open it up this year."
The Ravens aren't going to deviate from their run-heavy attack. It's part of their smashmouth makeup and how they're built around Jackson's unique talents.
But there's no doubt that a major priority this offseason is upgrading the passing game. It's not just about throwing the ball more often, but being more effective when they do. Watkins was signed to help add more explosion and consistency to the passing attack, and to help Jackson take his passing game to another level.
"I'm pretty sure they're definitely trying to fix the passing game," Watkins said. "It would definitely be fun to go in there, incorporating passing and letting Lamar show the ability that he does actually have in the passing game. That's kind of what I want to come into, and hopefully, we get that job done."
Watkins expressed supreme confidence in Jackson's ability to become a big-time passer. While Jackson has topped 1,000 rushing yards in his two full seasons as the starter, he threw for 3,127 yards (and a league-leading 36 touchdowns) in his MVP 2019 season, then dropped to 2,757 passing yards and 26 touchdowns last year.
"[If] we can be a balanced offense and go out there and get open when we need to get open, I think Lamar can throw for those 4,000 yards or those 4,500 yards, 5,000 – whatever these guys are putting [up]. I think he can be that quarterback and be elite in this game," Watkins said.
"It's no knock on him; when you watch film, honestly, everybody wasn't getting open, and I think that's a critical part with this offense. We can blame the offensive coordinators, but as players, we've got to do our job, and that's the thing. I've got to go out there and get open, and 'Hollywood' and whoever we have on the field has got to get open for Lamar. If we do that, he'll be up there with the elite guys who we talk about every day."
It's not just Roman who Watkins believes will help bring out the best in him again. Watkins also joined Baltimore, in part, because of Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams, who was hired this offseason. Watkins has worked with Williams as a personal route-running coach the past two years. Williams specifically helped the big-bodied receiver with his change of direction.
"For me, I think Keith Williams helped me as far as getting open, just mentally getting prepared for a game and just the art of running routes and making it easy on guys to actually get open," Watkins said. "He can take a guy that runs a 4.8 [40-yard dash] and make sure he can separate from guys, get open and catch balls."