Going into training camp, Anquan Boldin is the healthiest he has been in awhile. Last year, he was injured going into camp coming off of a partially torn meniscus injury. With that behind him, Boldin is as determined as ever to proved his doubters across the league, and in the city of Baltimore wrong.
Boldin is the 10th oldest player on the squad at age 31, yet that has not hindered his tireless work ethic. While most veterans were taking off on Monday because Head Coach John Harbaugh gave them the option, Boldin opted to practice. I read an article in the Baltimore Sun where he stated why he wanted to practice.
“It’s a little different at receiver,” Boldin said. “When we get days off- the 30-and-over guys – I kind of stay out there because if you’ve got one receiver that goes down, it kind of messes up the whole rotation. So I don’t want to put the guys in that kind of situation. So I went out there and got it over with.”
My initial reaction to this statement was, “Wow, this guy wants to win a championship.” While he hasn’t had the same success he had in Arizona, where he amassed over 1,000 yards in five of his seven seasons there, he still is the leading receiver for the Ravens. He isn’t as good a route runner as former Raven Derrick Mason was. He isn’t the speed demon that can stretch the field like Torrey Smith, newly- acquired Jacoby Jones and sixth-round-pick Tommy Streeter, but he does catch the football and still remains the number one target for quarterback Joe Flacco.
Last year, Boldin led the team in receiving yards with 887, only caught 57 balls and three touchdowns though. While those numbers may seem dismal for a number one receiver, remember a few things about the Ravens. We’re primarily a running team at our core and our main formula for victory is giving the ball to Ray Rice a minimum of 25 times a game. Flacco tends to check down to Rice more often than not; Rice led the team in catches with 76 last season. Finally, Boldin is a phenominal blocking wide receiver on the edge and helps pave the way for Rice to scoot outside for big gains. The numbers may not translate to being a huge threat, but he still has big play ability as he led the team in receptions and receiving yards during the playoffs last year bringing in 10 grabs for 174 yards.
I’m not guaranteeing Boldin will catch 80 balls this year or amass 1,000 yards receiving. However, he missed two games last year which makes his numbers look a whole lot worse than they probably would have been. Boldin may not be the fastest, he may not be the best route runner, but he is a stellar wide-out that can sneak up on teams this fall because of the plethora of new weapons at Joe Flacco’s disposal this year. While some may say they are unproven, they can stretch the field with their speed, leaving plenty of space underneath for Boldin to get open. If the teams refuse to respect the deep ball and double Boldin, that will work in the Ravens favor. This preseason will be a litmus test to see how far our young receivers have come and if they can contribute to a passing attack that in my opinion has the potential to be in the top 10, if Cam Cameron allows them to air it out every now and then.