When the Ravens signed Kelley Washington this summer, they were mainly doing it on potential.
Coming off a two-year run as a special teams contributor for the New England Patriots – where he logged only one reception from 2007-08 – Washington didn't have the statistics to back up the promise he showed at receiver as a former third-round selection out of the University of Tennessee.
But now that he is producing on a week-in, week-out basis, the Ravens are glad to have the versatile 6-foot-3, 217-pounder bolstering their receiving corps.
"We try not to put a limitation on a guy," said head coach John Harbaugh. "If you go back to Kelley's history, he was a guy that there were a lot of high hopes for as a receiver. For whatever, reason it just didn't latch on as far as stats and all that stuff go. We always thought he had the ability to be a great receiver in this league.
"I wouldn't say we're surprised, but we're sure happy about it," Harbaugh added.
This comes after an offseason where many fans and pundits questioned the Ravens for not pursuing marquee wideouts that were either free agents, like Marvin Harrison, to seeking trades, such as Denver's Brandon Marshall and Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin.
At least for now, Washington is proving that he belongs in Baltimore's Derrick Mason-led group.
In Sunday's 31-26 win over the San Diego Chargers, Washington totaled four catches for 58 yards, including a 27-yard reception from quarterback Joe Flacco, to lead the Ravens receivers. Washington also converted two third downs with 11- and 18-yard grabs.
The fact that Flacco is looking for Washington in those situations is a testament to the duo's growing trust.
"To me, it's a product of hard work," Harbaugh said. "And we're sure glad that Kelley is a part of this team, because he's been so instrumental in some third down conversions that have kept some drives alive. And in this last game, he had a couple of big ones that were just critical in this game."
Washington also brings some flash to the Ravens' offense. That manifested itself on the touchdown grab, when Washington quieted his teammates before going into his trademark "Squirrel Dance."
"I do that just to get guys laughing and smiling. It's not showing any type of arrogance or anything like that," Washington said. "I play with a lot of emotion, and so does our offense. I've been that way my whole career."
It was also a special score because it was Washington's first since Sept. 17, 2006, when he was with his original team, the Cincinnati Bengals.
The play was an inventive call from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Washington lined up in the slot and faked like he was going to block the Chargers cornerback across from Mason on a bubble screen before turning upfield.
Washington found himself wide open with ample running room between him and the end zone.
"Just a great feeling to be able to contribute to the offense and to be able to make a play," Washington said. "It was a fake screen and something that we've been practicing. We can use that if they try to overplay us, and we executed it well.
"The biggest thing for me was to catch the ball first," Washington continued. "I didn't have to score a touchdown, just catch the ball and make it to another set of downs. But they jumped on the play, and it was just me and the end zone."