Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Ravens’ wide receivers have caught a total of nine passes.
All nine of those receptions have been recorded by just two guys - seven by Anquan Boldin, and the other two by Lee Evans, who is battling an ankle injury and might need to be sat down if he continues to lack the burst necessary to compete at a high level.
I think it might be time for somebody else to step up.
Yes, the Ravens have gotten solid contributions in the passing game from running back Ray Rice (nine grabs for 95 yards and two TDs) and second-year tight ends Ed Dickson (seven catches for 84 yards and a TD) and Dennis Pitta (four catches for 69 yards).
But the lack of production out of wide receivers not named Boldin or Evans is concerning, especially considering Evans’ health.
To make matters worse, second-year wide receiver David Reed, who the coaches had talked up as a legitimate option in the passing game, will miss around three weeks because of a shoulder injury. That now puts even more pressure on the Ravens’ trio of rookie receivers - second-rounder Torrey Smith, fourth-rounder Tandon Doss and undrafted free agent LaQuan Williams - to make an impact offensively sooner rather than later.
“Those guys are the next guys up,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Torrey is going to be important. Tandon is going to be important. Obviously, with Lee and Anquan, those guys are going to be really important, and LaQuan is going to be a big part of it, too. I’m sure those five guys are going to be playing, and they’re just going to have to step up and make plays for us.”
The Ravens might be looking at all three rookies hoping for contributions in the passing game, but in reality, the brunt of the focus will be put on Smith. Williams has been active for both games this season, but has been seeing the vast majority of his time on various special teams units, while Doss has yet to suit up this season after being declared a gameday inactive both weeks.
Ideally, the Ravens would be able to turn to Smith in this situation, seeing as how the Maryland product was their top offensive selection in this year’s draft. The rookie has fantastic speed and showcased his playmaking ability in college, but those elements have been absent since he joined the Ravens.
Smith had a rocky training camp, only caught four passes for 20 yards in extensive preseason action, and while he’s gotten reps as the Ravens’ third wideout so far this regular season, Smith been invisible in the passing game and has looked lost at times.
Still, Harbaugh says the Ravens have faith that Smith is ready to perform, and are confident that his ability to make plays down the field will kick in sometime in the not-too-distant future.
“He’s out there to contribute,” Harbaugh said. “Joe (Flacco) hasn’t gotten to him in read-progression for whatever reason. Every play is a little bit different. It’s not like we’re not throwing him the ball because we don’t think he is ready. If we didn’t think he was ready to catch the ball and run with it, we certainly wouldn’t put him on the field. I want to see him make catches as much as anybody, especially downfield, because that’s what we brought him here to do. We just haven’t gotten to him yet with it.
“That’s something that’s really important; we need to do that. We need to push the ball up the field. This offense is designed to do it. We have done it in the past ... but it’s not just throwing them - its completing them, it’s making those plays downfield. That’s part of the reason he is here.”