The trade of Anquan Boldin left a gap in the teams receiving group and how the Ravens will replace him remains to be seen.
It is obvious that Torrey Smith will take over the number one receiver role for the defending Super Bowl champions. As the Ravens’ resident deep threat, his 17.4-yard average catch and eight touchdowns led all Baltimore pass-catchers, and his 855 yards ranked second behind only Boldin in that department. Smith’s 49 receptions were just fourth on the 2012 Ravens, and his greatest improvement can come in the consistency with which he and quarterback Joe Flacco connect.
Last season, Smith caught just 49 of the 110 passes he was targeted on, and that 45 percent success rate was the league’s worst among receivers with more than 30 catches and at least 16 yards per reception. Smith, the former Maryland Terp will see a lot more looks this season and the true speedster will see a lot more double coverage in 2013 and must be better on short and intermediate pass routes. No doubt Torrey can handle this role and I am excited to see his progression this season.
Moving into the second receiver role is likely the electrifying Jacoby Jones. As the Ravens reported to training camp earlier this week the headlines shouted that Jones was unable to pass his conditioning test however passed the next day. Jones who is entering his seventh NFL season dazzled opponents in his kick return game in 2012, however could see his role on special teams diminish now that his receiving role will increase.
Jones recorded 30 catches as the Ravens third wide out in 2012 along with 406 receiving yards and one touchdown in just 54 attempts. The knock on Jacoby has always been his hands and his ability to catch the ball. We all remember the “Mile High Miracle” and his catch in the Super Bowl however he has never caught more than 51 passes (2010) in a season.
Baltimore seems pretty confident that the departure of Boldin will not affect the passing game at all. With the likes of a talented pair of tight ends, Dennis Pitta (61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012) and Ed Dickson (21 for 225) will all see increased targets. The number three and four receiver positions is where it gets interesting. A training camp battle is already under way with 2011 fourth-round pick Tandon Doss, 2012 collegiate free agent Deonte Thompson, 2010 fifth-round selection David Reed, and perhaps 2011 collegiate free agent LaQuan Williams.
Baltimore can still add a receiver during training camp if any of the above mentioned players does not step up into that role. I myself cringe at the thought of bringing in another Lee Evans however it may just happen. A lot will take place between now and the Ravens first preseason game against Tampa Bay next week and could make the receiver picture very clear.
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