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What Todd Monken's Answer About Odell Beckham Jr. Shows About His Views on Wide Receivers

(From left to right) OC Todd Monken & WR Odell Beckham Jr.
(From left to right) OC Todd Monken & WR Odell Beckham Jr.

The Ravens had the least amount of production from their wide receivers in the NFL last season, and it's another offseason full of chatter about how to upgrade the position.

New Ravens Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken made his feelings on the position clear. He wants to utilize wide receivers more, and he wants them to know they're going to be involved.

Much of that viewpoint was evident in his answer about free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who he coached in Cleveland in 2019. Beckham had no issue voicing his desire for the ball back then.

"He's like every skill player; he's no different – I don't know why everybody gets pissed off – like, he wants the ball. Well, really? I don't know where I've been where a great player didn't want the ball," Monken said.

"I don't know where a basketball player didn't want shots or a baseball player didn't want to get at-bats. That's what they want; they want opportunities to showcase their ability. I think it's awesome."

With a premier tight end in Mark Andrews and a heavy reliance on the run game the past several years, Ravens wide receivers as a whole did not get a ton of opportunities. Marquise Brown had the 10th-most targets in the league in 2021, but that was more of an outlier. Rashod Bateman could have been a targets monster last season, but he went down with an early-season foot injury.

Monken said he plans to have more "open sets" and more space in his offense moving forward, which likely means more opportunities for playmakers on the outside.

"Getting to that point where you're using every blade of grass, every 53 1/3 [yards wide], use the full length of the field," Monken said. "You try to create more space utilizing space players."

And Monken wants Ravens receivers to know that they're going to be a big part of each game plan. It's not just the tight ends and running backs, and it's not just going to be one wide receiver dominating the room's touches.

"When you install, they look at where their opportunities are going to be and where they're going to have a chance to make an impact on the game," Monken said. "Now they have to earn that. But to me, balance is everybody's ability to touch the ball and make an impact.

"It's really about them having to defend run and pass and personnel and plays, so you don't just have these two guys touch the ball. That happens, but you try to avoid that at all costs. Skill guys, you're going to get the most out of them if they know when their opportunities are going to come."

Monken's coaching roots started with wide receivers. He starting coaching them at Eastern Michigan (his first full-time coaching job) in 1993 and coached them every for the next 17 years, including also at Louisiana Tech, Oklahoma State, LSU, and then in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also coached the wideouts with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016-2017.

The Ravens could remake their wide receiver room this offseason, and will likely continue to add more young talent via the draft to pair with Bateman, who is entering his third season. Getting the most out of those players will be crucial to Monken being able to utilize more of his open-set plans.

"We're in the development business. Any player that you get, you're fighting like hell to develop them and using what their elite trait is. You're always trying to find what that is, where they can add value in a game plan," Monken said.

"Where can you find pieces that can play at an elite level in what you're asking them to do?"

For what it's worth, Monken did speak very highly of Beckham, who remains a free agent after not signing anywhere last offseason coming off his major knee injury.

"OK, I really like Odell. Odell is super athletic, twitchy. [He] really likes football. I really did [like him]," Monken said.

"I think he's tremendously skilled, and I like his personality. He likes to compete. He has a tough deal, though, because he's a … In my opinion – and he may think differently – it's tough being a face. Does that make sense? Like NBA [players] deal with it all the time, but there are very few NFL players, outside of the quarterback, that they really know their face; that they're a market. And he's that way, and I think that makes it hard at times. When you're under the microscope like he is, it really is hard. But I liked Odell a lot. I liked his skillset, liked his work ethic. He fought through an injury. Tremendous."

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