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Ravens still searching for a second wideout

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Ravens still searching for a second wideout

BALTIMORE -- Joe Flacco and Steve Smith showed once again on Saturday night that they are definitely on the same page as they get ready for their second season together in Baltimore. But the rest of the receiver corps? It still resembles a blank page with just one preseason game left, and that has to be one of the more troubling concerns for the Ravens offense.

Smith appeared to be in midseason form in the Ravens’ 31-13 loss to the Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium, with four catches for 95 yards, including a nifty 63-yard catch-and-run touchdown, all in the first quarter. Smith’s night came to an abrupt end when he was ejected during a fight late in the first quarter, showing that the 36-year-old still has plenty of fire in the belly. But Smith’s early absence only illustrated that the Ravens still have major question marks at wide receiver.

First-round draft pick Breshad Perriman remains sidelined with a knee injury. The oft-injured Michael Campanaro was out again, this time with what coach John Harbaugh described as a “soft-tissue issue.”
Kamar Aiken started alongside Smith, and he finished with two catches for 29 yards. Marlon Brown was invisible for most of the game before making one late catch for 15 yards. Rookie Darren Waller (one catch, 5 yards) and Brown both had balls bounce off their hands. Jeremy Butler, who is fighting for a  roster spot, finished with four catches for 32 yards.

“There is some stuff I can get better at,” Aiken said after the game. “I’m not fully polished, but there’s some stuff I did well and there’s some I could learn from.”
The Ravens could not find the end zone on two pass plays from the 2-yard line, with incompletions from Matt Schaub to Brown and Butler. In fairness to Brown, the fade pattern to him was badly overthrown.
Also, without Perriman, the Ravens don’t appear to have the speed for a legitimate deep threat, no one that can stretch the defense.
Who’s the No. 2 receiver behind Smith? At this point, it’s still anyone’s guess. But the season opener is just two weeks away, and that can’t be a very comfortable thought for the Ravens.
MORE RAVENS: Five takeaways from Ravens loss to Redskins

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John Harbaugh believes Lamar Jackson will take the next step as a quarterback

John Harbaugh believes Lamar Jackson will take the next step as a quarterback

There really isn’t more that Lamar Jackson can accomplish statistically. 

After an MVP season where he led the league in touchdown passes (36) and rushed for more yards than a quarterback ever had before (1,206), there are not many areas where Jackson didn’t shine last season. 

One area where coach John Harbaugh sees room for improvement, though, is on deep passes. 

On a question-and-answer conference call with Ravens’ season-ticket holders Thursday, Harbaugh discussed the desire to add an element of the offense the Ravens didn’t excel at last season. 

"Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it,” Harbaugh said. “We absolutely have to make them pay. The ability to make them pay for tilting their defense toward stopping our run game with a really, really efficient passing game. I do believe that's the next step of this offense. I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step."

The Ravens drafted wideouts Devin Duvernay and James Proche in April’s draft, and now likely boast the league’s fastest offense. And with teams so focused on stopping the run game from Jackson and Mark Ingram, over-the-top throws are waiting to be had. 

According to Warren Sharp at sharpfootballstats.com, the Ravens had 48 “explosive” pass plays last season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. Explosive plays are considered passes of 15 or more yards. 

“The thing that we tried to build is an offense that allows us to do basically whatever we want to do, or whatever we need to do based on what the defense presents to us,” Harbaugh said. “We want to attack the width and depth of the field.”

The Ravens will have a healthy Marquise Brown at wide receiver in 2020, as well as a young offense a year removed from being the best in the NFL. 

If Jackson is able to expand upon what he did in 2019, there’s not much defenses can do to slow down the Ravens’ offense. 

"We should have guys more open, and we should have bigger plays,” Harbaugh said. “We should create more opportunities in the pass game because of that run game."

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Ranking the Ravens' five likeliest rookies to make an impact in 2020

Ranking the Ravens' five likeliest rookies to make an impact in 2020

The Ravens had, by nearly all accounts, one of the NFL’s best drafts in April. 

With their 10 picks, they addressed just about every need on the roster — edge rusher being the holdout — and got more talented at each position they needed to. 

And while the Ravens are hopeful all of their drafted players can fill a role next season, a few players like Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington have clear roles carved out as depth players for their rookie season, and safety Geno Stone appears destined for a special teams role to start his career. 

Here are the five Ravens’ rookies that can make an immediate impact in 2020:

1. Patrick Queen

The first one is as obvious can be. 

Not only is Queen the team’s first round draft pick, but he also likely filled the biggest need on the team and will join the Ravens and immediately be handed a starting role. 

Queen made 85 tackles for the national champion LSU Tigers last season and, at just 20-years-old, was one of the draft’s top risers last season at LSU.

He’s perhaps the most talented player of the Ravens’ 2020 draft class and with a starting role so clearly carved out for him, the room for strong production is right there.

2. Devin Duvernay

Duvernay will join a Ravens receiving corps in need of a second wide receiver to prove himself. With Mark Andrews at tight end and Marquise Brown as the team’s two clear top options in the receiving game, there is still an opening for a third option to emerge from the group. The speedster from Texas could be it. 

With 4.39 40-yard dash speed, Duvernay will immediately be one of the fastest players not only on the offense, but on the team. He posted 106 catches last season for 1,386 yards at Texas, but his toughness was what stood out to the Ravens. 

If he’s able to prove his worth early on, he could find himself as the team’s third option in the receiving game.

3. James Proche

This might seem out of sorts for Proche to be on this list so high, but hold up. 

Yes, he was the second-to-last pick of the Ravens’ draft. Yes, he’s just a rookie and draft capital matters in terms of who gets a look, and how much they do.

But Proche is also likely going to be the team’s punt and perhaps kick returner to start the season. There’s not a rookie on this list, besides Queen, who is in better shape to have some kind of starting role so quickly. 

Add into the debate that Proche is joining the same depth chart as Duvernay, and it’s clear there’s a path for the sure-handed receiver to find his way onto the field sooner than some may think.

4. J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins has perhaps the highest ceiling on this list, and the floor is higher than perhaps anyone but Queen for his rookie year. The problem is, the ceiling involves some exceptions. 

He’ll join a crowded backfield with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, not to mention that his new quarterback is the league’s best running quarterback as well. 

Dobbins might end up having the greatest long-term impact on this list, but the odds of him taking on a major role in the offense — while he’s essentially guaranteed at least some kind of role in 2020 — would require him stepping up as the clear No. 1 running back, or a host of injuries. 

5. Ben Bredeson

Bredeson might make the quietest impact of anyone on this list, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to make the biggest. 

In a logjam to replace Marshal Yanda’s right guard spot, Bredeson figures to be the likeliest rookie to take over the position. If he’s able to, he’ll certainly have earned it.

The rookie started all four seasons at Michigan and certainly has the experience in big time games to step in and contribute immediately.

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