After the 2009 season ended, it was determined that the Ravens needed better wide receivers (read: more than just Derrick Mason) to finally get over the hump and make it to the Super Bowl. Besides old reliable Mason, the Ravens had Mark Clayton-labeled as a disappointment, as well as Demetrius Williams and some other guys not even worth mentioning. So Ozzie Newsome acquired Anquan Boldin, drafted David Reed, and signed Donte Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh as free agents. So with the wide receiver corps sufficiently upgraded, and Joe Flacco’s continued growth the Ravens offense promised a machine that would be difficult to stop. Somehow, it turned out that the machine was less than the sum of its parts. Houshmandzadeh begain complaining of not seeing the ball enough. Stallworth, after being injured in preseason on a punt return, never earned enough of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s trust to do anything more than run the end around. Mason and Flacco had periods of contentiousness; Boldin, after a strong start started disappearing from the offense and Reed never really got any time on the field as a receiving threat. Then when last seen at Heinz Field, Boldin dropped a sure touchdown pass and Houshmandzadeh dropped a fourth-down pass that hit him square in the chest. Mason didn’t catch a pass in the playoff loss to the Steelers, and Reed and Stallworth were non-entities.
Fast forward a few months, and the Ravens again feel they have potentially solved their problems at wide receiver. The Ravens used two of their seven draft choices on the position, taking former Maryland Terrapin Torrey Smith in the second round and Tandon Doss from Indiana in the fourth round. Both young guns figure to do what apparently the boatload of receivers could not-that is, in Smith’s case to stretch the field and in Doss’s case, to be the big target to work underneath. The draft choices appear to make Stallworth and Houshmandzadeh the odd men out. Stallworth was last season’s “stretch the defense” target, but never got the chance to really show if he could do it in Cameron’s offense. Houshmandzadeh just wasn’t a great fit in the offense. The two incoming rookies have the potential to be Flacco’s targets for years to come.
Of course, this could all be much ado about nothing if Cameron and Flacco don’t get on the same page in regards to the offense. And while Cameron has been invisible this offseason, Flacco has been very visible-first in his criticism about the firing of quarterback coach Jim Zorn, then voicing his opinion toward getting a contract extension. The story was released after the draft that Flacco was asked his opinion regarding several young receivers in the draft, and he gave his blessing, if you will, toward drafting Doss. This might put Doss under some undue pressure come training camp, but if he is as talented as the club believes, he will do just fine. So while the cupboard appears to be loaded yet again at the wide receiver position, it remains to be seen if the results improve upon last season’s performance.