OWINGS MILLS – Tired of hearing the questions, it’s time for the Ravens wide receivers to provide answers.
Aside from Steve Smith, the Ravens will open the season Sunday in Denver with a receiving corps that has just 104 regular season catches combined:
Marlon Brown – 73 career catches
Kamar Aiken – 24 catches
Michael Campanaro – 7 catches
Breshad Perriman – zero catches
Darren Waller – zero catches
Meanwhile, first-round pick Perriman (knee injury) hasn’t practiced in six weeks, and he isn’t expected to play Sunday. So inquiring minds want to know. Do the Ravens have enough weapons for quarterback Joe Flacco? Not only to win Sunday, but to make a run at a Super Bowl?
Smith bristled Wednesday, when he heard the word “unproven” used in a question about his wide receiver teammates.
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“Unproven to you,” Smith fired back. “That’s why you’re not out there. We roll with the guys we have, we’re comfortable in that. Obviously, they may not be proven in stats, but also, you’re not out here every day watching these guys work – work their (tails) off – and see what they do. It is no overnight success. They’ve been grinding for awhile. So that’s really the great thing about football, is we get to apply what you guys think is unattainable. We get to do it every day.”
Nobody is questioning how much the Ravens’ receivers want to silence the naysayers. Aiken is hard not to root for. He entered the league undrafted in 2011, and he has already been with the Bills, the Bears, and the Patriots. In all those places, somebody told Aiken he wasn’t good enough. He never believed it.
Aiken earned his place as a starter on the depth chart opposite Smith. Asked if he thought Aiken would be a starting wide receiver Week 1, Flacco said, “Yes, no doubt. I think he was in a position to do a lot of things for us last year, just looking at our lineup and with the experience he has. Yes, I fully expected it and not surprising.”
In the best-case scenario for the Ravens, Perriman gets healthy and gives an explosive jolt to the offense whenever he returns. Like Odell Beckham Jr. did for the Giants last season. Campanaro stays healthy and makes plays as a slot receiver. Smith is Smith. Aiken capitalizes on his golden opportunity. And Brown plays like he did in 2013, when he had seven touchdown catches as a rookie.
In the worst-case scenario, Perriman’s injury leads to an inconsistent rookie season. Campanaro can’t beat the injury bug. And Smith, in his final season at age 36, doesn’t defy Father Time the way he defies cornerbacks.
Talk to some Ravens fans about the wide receivers, and they sound worried. Talk to the Ravens, and they sound confident. Who’s right? We’ve finally reached Week 1, where we’ll start getting some answers.