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Ravens WR's Unselfish On Quest For Super Bowl

January 04, 2019 - 7:00 pm
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By Alex Woodward

 

The Ravens are in the playoffs for the first time since 2014 thanks to Lamar Jackson leading them to a 6-1 record in their final 7 games. They got there by revamping their offense to a more old school style of football by running it nearly 65% of the time and they are averaging a ridiculous 229 rushing yards per game in that span with 9 touchdowns on the ground. It has been impressive to watch but in a league where wide receivers are known to be some of the biggest divas in the locker room, the Ravens receivers have shown everything but that. 

Eric Weddle said in an appearance on NFL Network this week that this years team is "one of the best teams I've been on". I believe him. Given how much of the offense is predicated on blocking downfield and letting the quarterback make plays with his legs more often than his arm, you would think there would be somebody among the wide receiving group crying out for more targets. As the old saying goes, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" but there have been no public outcries by the wide receivers for more passing. What they are doing is working and the receivers know a run at the Super Bowl is more important than individual stats. 

In fact, the person most upset about not getting the ball to the receivers more is Lamar Jackson,

"Those guys are just blocking their tails off, sometimes they're not getting the ball as much as they should. Sometimes they won't get a catch that game and I would be more mad than they would (be). I would go up to them and be like 'man I'm trying to get you the ball' and they would be like 'you're good' and I'd be like 'nah I'm not good. When you get a score then we'll be good."

That says a lot about the dynamic of the relationships on offense, especially since the top 3 receivers on the Ravens roster were all on different teams last season. 

Let's start with John Brown. "Smokey" as they call him was a favorite target of Joe Flacco's in the preseason and in the early parts of the regular season. Brown was the leading receiver for the Ravens through the first 9 games, catching 34 balls for 601 yards and 4 touchdowns. Since Lamar took over, he has just 18 catches for 114 yards and 1 touchdown on an average of 4 targets per game and just 16 receiving yards per game. You would think that kind of drop off in production and targets would irritate a wide receiver but John Brown - like many of his teammates - has bought into the new way of Ravens football. 

"We not worrying about that, as long as we (are) winning, that's just the type of player he is. At the end of the day it's just like 'hey, we won'. We'll get our opportunities when the opportunities come."

Michael Crabtree has been known to pop off from time to time. On the field and off the field but this year he has stayed quiet and has embraced his new role. In his first 9 games with the Ravens, Crabs had 41 catches for 472 yards and 2 touchdowns. Since then, he has just 13 catches for 139 yards which is an average of 1 catch per game for 19 yards. A more mature Crabtree has emerged this season and he too shares the notion of winning over personal stats. 

Lastly, Willie Snead has seen the least amount of drop-off in his production given the fact he runs most of his routes from the slot and across the middle which is a friendly target for a rookie QB. In his first 9 games, he had 45 catches for 448 yards and 1 touchdown. In the 7 games with Lamar at QB he had 17 catches for 203 yards. Nothing flashy but he has been Lamar's favorite target out of the WR's.

Snead and Brown aren't your typical brash and outspoken wide receivers but it's encouraging to see their willingness to block for their quarterback instead of begging for the ball. Crabtree is the veteran presence and what's even more impressive about their attitude in this offense is the fact that all three of them are on short term deals. Brown signed a 1 year, 5 million dollar deal this offseason. Willie Snead signed a 2 year, 10.4 million dollar deal and Crabtree is on a 3 year deal worth 21 million dollars. Most receivers on short term deals are concerned about stats and showing what they can do to prospective employers but this group has taken the win first approach and they have fully bought into what the Ravens are using for their playoff run. 

Super Bowl or not, they are going all-in on Lamar Jackson and that hasn't gone unnoticed:

"They're sealing guys off for us to get extra yards or score touchdowns and for the receivers to do that, that's pretty amazing because some receivers would get cocky or might get mad and be like, "we ain't getting the ball that much". They might go off a play, just take off time, might get tackled yards back, stuff like that." Jackson continued, "It's pretty cool to have those guys on our team.

The attitude of the wide receivers has personified the team mentality of the 2018 Baltimore Ravens. It's not "Lamar's team". It's "our team". The only way to reach the ultimate goal is for everyone to be on the same page with no drama (talking to you Pittsburgh). The Ravens have accomplished that so far. Now it's time to win on Sunday. 

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