Two catches on the first two plays of the night for Breshad Perriman were the highlight for the Ravens in their 23-14 win over New Orleans to conclude the preseason on Thursday night.
Playing in a live game for the first time in almost two years, the 22-year-old wide receiver not only showed fans that, yes, he does exist but flashed glimpses of why the organization was so excited to select him with the 26th overall pick of the 2015 draft. Most importantly, Perriman came out of the game healthy, clearing a hurdle that was as much mental as physical.
So far, so good.
“It went real well I think. I know I’ve got a lot to work on, but I have no doubt in my mind that I’m going to get it done,” Perriman said in a second-half interview on the TV broadcast. “As far as how I was feeling, I was very nervous before the game, but once I finally got to the stadium, it was like everything went away. I just went out there and had fun.”
His debut may not have been electric, but the New Orleans secondary immediately respected Perriman’s speed as he ran a simple hitch route for a nine-yard reception on the first play from scrimmage. On the next play, the 6-foot-2 receiver then ran a dig toward the middle of the field before reining in a Ryan Mallett pass thrown behind him for a 16-yard gain and a first down.
Perriman later got too far outside on a skinny post route and then dropped a short pass on a wide receiver screen late in the first half, but he showed physicality and looked fairly comfortable against press coverage. It’s important to remember that Perriman is far from a finished product as he declared for the NFL draft after his junior year and wasn’t considered a great route runner, but we could finally start to see the talent on Thursday night.
The Ravens couldn’t have asked for more considering it was less than three months ago that Perriman suffered a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, an injury that was initially feared to cost him the season after a right knee injury had already sidelined him for his rookie year. He’s now on track to be ready for the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11.
Perriman is the kind of talent who brings intriguing upside for a team needing it to bounce back from a 5-11 season. It’s no secret that the Ravens are depending on a number of older players to fill meaningful roles, but that makes it even more important for dynamic young players to step forward in 2016 and beyond.
The healthy presence of Perriman as well as the additions of veteran Mike Wallace and rookie fourth-rounder Chris Moore give the Ravens more vertical threats than they’ve had in quite some time. That’s exactly what quarterback Joe Flacco needs to throw the deep ball and open up the short-to-intermediate portion of the field for the likes of Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Crockett Gillmore, and Dennis Pitta.
It’s no secret that the Ravens have lagged behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the skill position department over the last few seasons, but the potential appears to be there this season to begin closing that gap. Perriman headlines that list of young players carrying intrigue.
Healthy and flashing ability in an otherwise meaningless preseason finale.
It was all the Ravens needed to see from Perriman after a painfully long wait for his debut.