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Heading into the first practice of training camp, BaltimoreRavens.com will offer previews of those positions that feature a tough competition, focusing on who will be fighting for playing time. Today, the wide receivers take the spotlight.
The Ravens made no bones about their desire to upgrade the receiving corps this offseason, which will certainly make for some quality battles in training camp.
But, those battles will mainly take place among the second tier of wideouts.
With former Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin, free agent Donte' Stallworth, and Baltimore stalwart Derrick Mason essentially locked into their spots atop the leaderboard, there is a jumbled group that should shake out this summer.
Here is a look at the receiving competition as we head into the summer months:
Anquan Boldin, 8th seasonWhat He's Done:Last year, Boldin became the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to reach 7,000 receiving yards, posting 84 receptions for 1,024 yards and four touchdowns by the time the regular season finished.
What He's Going For:Boldin was always an elite receiver, but now, he gets the chance to prove he's a true No. 1. Still, he told me the potential for diminished numbers won't be an issue, considering the Ravens' abundance of weapons. With him leading the way, it's all about wins.
What He Needs To Do:The biggest thing for Boldin in the coming weeks is his work with quarterback Joe Flacco. In addition, injuries have limited Boldin to only two 16-game seasons during his career, so he'll have to stay healthy.
Derrick Mason, 14th seasonWhat He's Done:Mason was yet again the Ravens' top pass-catcher in 2009, hauling in 73 balls for 1,028 yards and seven scores.
What He's Going For:Mason's status shouldn't change much with Boldin on board, but he still expects to be targeted less. A determined Mason is seeking a Super Bowl ring before he hangs up his cleats.
What He Needs To Do:By all accounts, Mason also has accepted the fact that there might not be as many balls directed his way, an attitude that is critical in keeping everybody happy. He must maintain his relationship with Flacco while gelling with his new position-mates.
Donte' Stallworth, 8th seasonWhat He's Done:Stallworth was out of football in 2009 as he served an NFL-mandated suspension for pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter. In four of his seven seasons, Stallworth averaged at least 14.1 yards per reception.
What He's Going For:For a player that has been away from the game in Stallworth's manner, redemption is key. He wants to show that he is still a playmaker on the gridiron and a man of high character off it.
What He Needs To Do:Stallworth impressed coaches with his trademark speed during his initial workout and through OTAs. Keep it up in training camp, and he could offer a glimpse into his ability to stretch the field vertically.
Mark Clayton, 6th seasonWhat He's Done:Clayton played in 14 games and was fourth on the team with 34 receptions for 480 yards and two touchdowns. He also has been rehabilitating a shoulder procedure performed earlier this offseason.
What He's Going For:The former first-round draft pick is simply searching for a roster spot as a fourth or fifth receiver.
What He Needs To Do:Clayton must get healthy first. Then, another positive step might be to try his hand on special teams, where he can make himself more valuable.
Demetrius Williams, 5th seasonWhat He's Done:The Oregon product played in 13 contests and pulled in six catches for 142 yards and one score last season. He also managed to stay injury-free, which said a lot after dealing with an ankle injury in 2007 and 2008.
What He's Going For:Williams admits his status is tenuous, but he is determined to catch on in a fight for the Ravens' fourth or fifth spot.
What He Needs To Do:An injury-free training camp would help, and Williams must stand out when he gets reps at wideout during preseason contests, continuing some solid OTA performances when he was on the field.
Marcus Smith, 3rd seasonWhat He's Done:Smith missed the entire 2009 campaign with a knee injury, but previous to that was a promising special teamer.
What He's Going For:The Ravens like physical gunners, and Smith wants to show that he is fully recovered from a season-ending knee injury to fill that role while making the most of his reps on offense.
What He Needs To Do:The full contact of training camp will give Smith a chance to determine if his knee is ready to go. Smith also needs to continue to develop in a third year with Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron.
Justin Harper, 3rd seasonWhat He's Done:Harper spent much of last year on the Ravens' practice squad, joining the active roster in December.
What He's Going For:The opportunity for another year on the Ravens' developmental team could be his ticket to stick around. He is angling for a roster spot as a special teamer and depth at receiver.
What He Needs To Do:Harper's biggest issue is stringing together an entire body of work. He has made several notable grabs during camp, but then sprinkles a few frustrating drops.
Eron Riley, 2nd seasonWhat He's Done:Riley spent the entire year on the Ravens' practice squad as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Duke.
What He's Going For:As are the rest of the prospects, Riley is going for a special teams spot that could get him some snaps at wideout in four-wide sets.
What He Needs To Do:At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Riley has promising size. He needs to get physical with opposing corners when the pads come on.
David Reed, RookieWhat He's Done:As a senior at the University of Utah, Reed set school records for both receptions (81) and receiving yards (1,188) in a season.
What He's Going For:A chance to play in the slot, where he lined up in college, marks the spot for Reed. Until then, Reed hopes to excel in the return game.
What He Needs To Do:The fifth-round draft pick took some time to get comfortable with the early stages of the playbook, but seemed to pick it up along the way. The physical talent is there, but he needs to continue building his mental confidence.
Rodelin Anthony, RookieWhat He's Done:The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder was a red-zone threat for the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, as 12 of his career catches came in the end zone, including four last year.
What He's Going For:With a long climb ahead of him, it would be impressive to Anthony to earn a place on the active roster. A gig as a member of the practice squad would be just as sweet at this point.
What He Needs To Do:Adding special teams to his resume would be an added bonus, and Anthony should use his size to stand out during the preseason contests.