OWINGS MILLS, MD — The Baltimore Ravens defense is playing on easy mode in training camp this summer, with quarterback Lamar Jackson on the Covid-19 list and other key players out with various maladies. But rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman still manages to give the unit some trouble.
Bateman looked like the Ravens’ best offensive player Wednesday in camp, and he’s still clearly trying to shake a minor injury. The first-round pick was heavily involved early in practice but appeared to be on a pitch count, as he mostly stayed on the sideline with a slight limp two days after missing practice with muscle tightness. He participated in individual drills to close out the day.
Rashod Bateman coming at you. The rookie wide receiver has been the Ravens’ best offensive player today. pic.twitter.com/WQsLiH8DUv
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) August 4, 2021
The Ravens finished last in passing yards last season due largely to a dearth of talent at wide receiver. Marquise Brown led the team in receiving but didn’t take a major leap in Year 2 of his NFL career. Willie Snead IV, who signed a veteran-minimum deal with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason, finished second in yards among Baltimore’s wide receivers. Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, Dez Bryant and James Proche filled out the group.
Bateman now has a chance to help transform the position group, but it needs to find some better injury luck soon. Brown has missed five straight practices with a hamstring injury. Boykin and Sammy Watkins, who’s been a standout early in camp, were also absent from practice Wednesday.
Ravens WR Corps: Receiving stats and rank in 2020 (regular season only)
|Stat||Rank among 32 WR corps|
|Receiving first downs/touchdowns||84||32nd|
|Receptions of 15 or more yards||38||32nd|
|Contested catch rate||27.3%||31st|
But the Ravens will be in much better shape this season with Bateman, Brown and Watkins — once Jackson is back, of course — and there’s enthusiasm around the team about the upgrades at the position and how the wide receivers will complement each other, according to a source.
Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman is particularly enthused by Bateman.
“I see some real potential in terms of how we can deploy him. He’s learning all three different positions right now,” Roman said Wednesday. “We’re really excited to have him. I’m not going to get too effusive with my praise just yet, but he’s doing a really good job.”
Bateman, who’s shown quickness and big-play ability in camp, was PFF’s 17th-highest-graded draft-eligible wide receiver (81.1) in what wound up being a volatile junior season for the Minnesota product. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 in June 2020, opted out for the season, opted back in for five games then ultimately ended his season early with another opt-out in November after catching 36 passes for 472 yards with two touchdowns.
Rashod Bateman beating Marlon Humphrey ????pic.twitter.com/J8Y0GQOpTH
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) July 31, 2021
Bateman earned an 87.1 grade as a sophomore while catching 60 passes for 1,219 yards with 11 touchdowns and finishing second among wide receivers in plays of 15-plus yards.
The Ravens also have some talented players lower on their wide receiver depth chart. Boykin provides size once healthy, Duvernay adds a spark of athleticism off the bench and Proche has the best hands in the group. He snagged a football just inches from the ground during Wednesday’s session and has sudden quickness to get separation in the slot. Rookie Tylan Wallace, a fourth-round pick, has also shown consistent hands in training camp.
The group is currently catching passes from reserve quarterbacks as Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley continue to battle it out for the backup job behind Jackson. Huntley provides more athleticism but had some accuracy issues and threw three interceptions on Wednesday. McSorely is athletic in his own right and showed a solid connection with Bateman.
“Would we like Lamar out here? Sure,” Roman said. “Tyler and Trace are getting great reps. They’re doing some really, really good things. It’s really helping them develop too. I think by the end of training camp, we’ll have a real clear picture of who our backup is.”
The Ravens will certainly continue to rely heavily on Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and their rushing attack. But the addition of Bateman and Watkins should give Jackson more wiggle room in the passing game, as well.