In his second year with the Ravens in 2011, Anquan Boldin caught fewer passes than in any season since 2004. He also had his lowest touchdown total since 2004.
True, he sat out the last two games of the regular season after undergoing surgery to repair a slight meniscus tear in his knee, which probably impacted his performance in the preceding weeks.
And his yards-per-catch average of 15.6 was a career high.
But his overall stats, his current age (31) and the fact that rookie Torrey Smith supplanted him as the Ravens' big-play receiver in 2011 has some observers wondering about the arc of Boldin's career.
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com didnt mince words in naming him the Ravens most overrated player entering 2012: He could retire this spot since he earns it every year. Boldin just doesn't scare down the field, yet on Sundays all you hear are network analysts slobbering over the guy.
Despite such pointed criticism, the Ravens are happy with Boldin, the leader of their receiving corps. He caught 10 passes for 174 yards in their two postseason games in 2011, and theyre envisioning another solid season from him in 2012, especially now that his knee is healthy.
Between Smith and their new No. 3 receiver, Jacoby Jones, the Ravens have the speed at wideout to stretch opposing defenses more than ever before, theoretically opening seams for Boldin.
Some fans and league observers have expressed disappointment that Boldin hasnt emerged as the Pro Bowl-caliber No. 1 receiver some envisioned when he joined the Ravens in a trade before the 2010 season. At times last year he did seemingly struggle to gain separation from defenders.
But with 121 catches and 10 touchdowns in 30 games in Baltimore, he hasnt exactly disappeared. And while he did have his share of quiet games in 2011, he finished strong and looked sharp at the teams minicamp last month, sounding hungry to play another year at a high level.
For me, I come in every year with something different to work on, he said. I think you are never at a point in your career where you get satisfied with what you are doing, with where youre at. For me, like I said, I continue to work on things day-in and day-out. I look at a lot of film; I watch myself on film, and if there are things I dont like, a certain way I am coming out of a route or things like that, thats definitely something I take into account and work on during the offseason.
The Ravens are counting on more of the same from Boldin, and maybe a tad extra, in 2012.