The 2021 training camp and preseason have not been kind to the Baltimore Ravens. Despite going undefeated in the preseason, the injury bug has been running rampant in the team’s locker room. Most recently, starting running back J.K. Dobbins went down with an ACL injury. Wide receivers Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins have missed significant time but have returned to the field. Their returns give a considerable boost to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense.
The Ravens signed Sammy Watkins to give Lamar Jackson another weapon
Sammy Watkins is entering his eighth NFL season and his first in Baltimore. The Ravens signed him in the offseason to a one-year contract worth up to $6 million.
Watkins spent the last three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he caught 129 passes for 1,613 yards and eight touchdowns. Since the Buffalo Bills drafted him in 2014, he hasn’t lived up to the hype. Coming out of college, scouts viewed him as a potential game-breaker in the NFL.
The Clemson product enjoyed a great college career with the Tigers and displayed a knack for making big players after the catch. His best NFL season came in 2015 when he recorded 60 receptions for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns. While he’s shown flashes at the next level, he hasn’t been able to produce consistently.
Injuries have been an issue for Watkins, and he suffered another injury during Ravens training camp. He missed multiple practices due to an undisclosed injury. “It’s not a serious injury,” head coach John Harbaugh told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. The team has to be glad to see him return to action.
Lamar Jackson and the offense struggled at times because of poor play-calling and receivers struggling to get open. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is hoping Watkins can step in, make some plays, and help take the offense to the next level. He will have to develop chemistry with Jackson quickly to be ready for Week 1.
Lamar Jackson’s favorite teammate, Marquise Brown, is back as well
Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown have a strong bond, as both players are from South Florida. The chemistry between a quarterback and his receivers is of utmost importance. The Oklahoma product has established himself as one of No. 8’s favorite targets.
Brown saw 71 targets as a rookie, then 100 targets in 2020. He finished with 58 receptions for 789 yards and eight touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. The second-year wideout struggled at times with drops but also made some splash plays.
In year three, Brown will need to improve even more if the Ravens are going to make a deep playoff run. Given his smaller stature, he may never pan out to be a true No. 1 receiver. However, Greg Roman’s offense also hasn’t done the young receiver any favors.
He’s been battling a hamstring injury throughout training camp, which held him out of all three preseason games. His return to the field was another welcomed sight. Brown will be trying to work off the rust and make up for the lost time. The Ravens will need his speed and dynamic playmaking ability if the offense makes a leap in 2021.
Where does the Ravens receiving corps stand currently?
Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins are the starting wide receivers for the 2021 season. Although they both have playmaking ability, neither player is a proven No. 1 option.
The wide receiver room is still not fully healthy, though. First-round draft pick Rashod Bateman suffered a groin injury during training camp and recently underwent surgery. The Ravens’ 2019 third-round pick Miles Boykin went down with a hamstring injury. Baltimore moved both players to the injured reserve list, meaning they’ll be out until at least Week 4.
Boykin has yet to meet expectations, but there were high hopes for Bateman. The Minnesota product has the tools to become the Ravens’ No. 1 receiver. Maybe one of the trio of Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, and Tylan Wallace will emerge and produce in his absence.
The 2021 season may end up being the biggest season of tight end Mark Andrews’ career. With Bateman still sidelined, he should continue to be a security blanket for Lamar Jackson. Through three seasons, he’s received an average of 78 targets. The former Oklahoma standout could be in line for his largest target share since he arrived in Baltimore.
The Ravens offense will be intriguing to watch and see if they make any adjustments to a game plan that plagued them in the last couple of playoff runs.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference