There’s a basketball hoop in the Ravens locker room today. James Proch II brought him to the facility not too long ago, which means he and his fellow wide receivers can pass the time playing throws and dunk sessions. Prosh joked to Devin DuVernay that it was one of his best buys of the year, another competitive outing for one of the Ravens’ most interesting bands.
“They literally play all the time,” tight end Mark Andrews said Tuesday. “It’s a close group. This is a hungry group. They know what’s at stake and they’re ready to go, man.
However, success is anything but a slam dunk. By trading Marquis “Hollywood” Brown, their explosive but disgruntled No. 1 wide receiver, to the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, the Ravens returned to answering familiar offseason questions about the polarizing position.
How good are their young but untested wide receivers? How good should they be? What’s next for a group that is once again facing low external expectations?
“Every day you wake up as a NFL coach or player, you know you have to bring it,” Ravens wide receiver coach Ty Martin, a former NFL wide receiver, said after day two. obligatory mini-camp on Wednesday. “So being a former player in the league and now back as a manager, it just comes with the territory. No one will be stricter with us than ourselves, and no one will expect more from us than ourselves. So yes, you hear. This only adds fuel to the fire. But we are all an initiative group.”
With Brown in Arizona and Sammy Watkins signed with the Green Bay Packers, there’s plenty of room for growth. Rashod Bateman, Tylan Wallace, DuVernay and Prosh combined for 1,012 receiving yards last season, with a total of 22 receiving yards dwarfed by themselves. Brown accounted for almost half of the position’s scoring, finishing with 1,008 rushing yards in 16 games before requiring an off-season trade.
The Ravens didn’t bother finding a celebrity replacement. In the fourth round, they selected two tight ends, Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely. They signed several productive undrafted receivers. But mostly they pinned their hopes on a return to quarterback form Lamar Jackson and on developing their talented if inexperienced wide receivers — one Day 1 pick (Bateman), one Day 2 pick (DuVernay), and two choice on day 3 (Wallace). and Proshe).
“I feel like they kind of believe in their guys,” said Duvernay, an All-Pro who finished fifth with the Ravens in receiving yards (272) last season. “I mean they called us for a reason, I think. Therefore, I feel that they treat us strongly, and every day at this training ground we are just trying to prove them right in their decisions.
The return to the minicamp was promising. Jackson, who missed the team’s voluntary practice sessions in organized team events, boosted the team’s performance. Bateman, a first-round pick last year who finished rookie with 515 yards despite preseason groin surgery, caught a 65-yard touchdown on Wednesday on Jackson’s perfect deep throw and was the best outfielder. threat in training during the off-season.
Bateman, who won’t turn 23 until November, is expected to lead a group whose oldest returning member, Others, is just 25.
“You do it by working and not talking, and that’s exactly what he did,” Martin said. “He came, just lowered his head and went to work. I saw him grow up, just grow up. … The NFL is so different from college in terms of protective disguises and such. But with a year behind us, the language we speak, those kinds of things, that’s where I’ve seen him grow and mature for the upcoming season.”
DuVernay, who was silent at OTA training sessions open to reporters, increased his output during the mini-camp. In Wednesday’s 11-on-11 game, he worked the sideline to catch the ball on the breakout route and then caught a pass in traffic at the crossroads.
“Much better than last season,” Martin said. “That’s what you want to see in a young player. There were some things we wanted to detail and improve in the offseason. He saw it in the film, he came back with the mood to work, he’s been here since we started. Mentally and physically, he has taken another step and I just look forward to seeing it come to fruition.”
Prosh, whose tallying skyrocketed last season—he had 74 yards against the Denver Broncos in October, 76 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in December, and 52 yards for the rest of the season—remains a solid option in this slot.
In Wednesday’s two-minute exercise, Jackson found it three times in four completions. First, Prosh got free from defender Marlon Humphrey for a short end of the game on the street. He then fell behind inside midfielder Patrick Quinn and got a good lead from center. He then caught another pass along the right touchline to stop the clock.
“Just keep doing the plays that come to his mind,” Martin said of Prosh. “Look at last season, go back to the game with Denver – he had some big tackles for us on the third down. Return to Cincinnati at the end of the season for big wins on third downs. And when he’s on the pitch, just keep playing and doing what we ask him to do on offense.”
Wallace had one of the best mini-camp routes late in Tuesday’s practice, a double move that left defenseman Brandon Stevens gasping as Wallace cruised down the left sideline for a big finish off quarterback Tyler Huntley. An outstanding special team player as a rookie, he showed improvement as a receiver in the mini-camp, catching passes at every level.
“Great hands, a really good trail runner, very solid and physical,” said Martin. “I had the opportunity to see it in special teams. He was the guy who came in, I didn’t know if he would play like that on special teams and he really proved to us how awesome he was on special teams.
“And that was reflected in the games where later in the season we depended on him to do some things for us in the running game and some empty circuits and things like that. He had a role to play and he did a good job at the end of the season and that role will expand as we move forward.”
The growth of a group can determine not only its production, but also the time of the game. The Ravens spent part of Wednesday’s practice lining up in a trio of tight packs, leaving room for only one wide receiver on the field. Roman, one of the NFL’s busiest coordinators, doesn’t shy away from heavier staffing packages.
Andrews, who played last season in All-Pro, and Bateman will be difficult to break away from the background. However, after them it can be an open competition for shots. Martin said the offense is “about doing what we have to do to win games, regardless of the staff that’s on the field.”
“At the end of the day, we’re just trying to prove ourselves right,” DuVernay said. “We know what we can do. We all believe in each other. I mean, no matter what the media says, what other people say, we don’t care about any of that. We just go out and play ball the best we can.”