Jacoby Jones passed his conditioning test on Thursday, just a day after failing his first attempt.
And no, he didn’t fail because he spent the offseason dancing with stars (last I checked, dancing was pretty decent cardio), or any unfounded rumor of complacency. Sometimes, these things just happen. And when they do, it’s not automatically an Albert Haynesworth situation.
However, that doesn’t mean Coach Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome should be feeling encouraged about their wide receiver position, and this is has already been a well-documented concern this summer.
Jones is being thrust into a starting role after only twice being in a game for more than half of the Ravens offensive snaps. One of those games was the thrashing at the hands of the Broncos when the team had no choice but to pass, and the other was during the glorified scrimmage versus the Bengals in Week 17. Despite making big plays from time-to-time, with more than a few coming at the hands of blown coverage, Jones has never consistently thrived with an expanded role on offense, dating back to his days with the Houston Texans.
Aside from Jones, the Ravens are left with field-stretcher Torrey Smith and sticks-mover Dennis Pitta, the pass-catching tight end who will make plays underneath. Ray Rice is still Ray Rice, and will pluck balls from the flats and gain yards. But after them what do you have?
The answer—no one. So go out and get someone.
Developing your own homegrown talent should always be Plan A, but it takes a keen mind to know when to move on to Plan B. No one is saying Harbaugh and Newsome aren’t keen minded. In fact, it’s for that reason the time has come to explore other options as camp gets under way.
Encouraging reports have surrounded guys like Deonte Thompson and Tandon Doss, but when a team has Super Bowl expectations and a win-now mentality, the luxury of giving playing time to your youngsters is not one you get to have. That’s what practices are for. That’s what the preseason and organized team activities are for.
In the meantime, cost permitting, if you have a chance to make your team better, you take it. If that means signing a Brandon Lloyd, Laurent Robinson, or monitoring the first cuts of other teams, then so be it.
Even if it turns out Jones is just a starter by title only, the Ravens should not be shy when it comes to upgrading the receiving corps. There are options, and cost-effective ones at that. And once that position is addressed, it can allow Jones to return to the limited role that made him so valuable to the team down the stretch.
Baltimore’s Next Sports Media Superstar contestant Dan Ciarrocchi is an editor of Hogs Haven, an SB Nation website. He also contributes to the fantasy football section of Pro Football Focus and covered Towson University baseball for two years at The Towerlight.