With our top three receiver’s receiving injuries in the past week at training camp, the battle for the backup roles heatens. Derrick Mason sustained a “jammed” index finger on Tuesday, while Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams are still dealing with their hamstring troubles. All should be fine, but with them out for the time being, we get a better look at what lies behind these two. Derrick Mason seems to cemented as the #1 receiver, Mark Clayton the #2, and Demetrius Williams the #3. However, beyond them it is a tossup for the 4 and 5 roles. Some of the names that are fighting for those spots include: Yamon Figurs, Jayson Foster, Justin Harper, Eron Riley, Marcus Smith, Kelley Washington, and Ernie Wheelwright. Watching and reading about these players’ performances thus far this training camp it appears that three of the seven have stood out; Harper, Smith, and Washington.
Justin Harper- 6 foot 3, 215 lbs, 2nd year, Virginia Tech
Justin Harper is a big target with soft hands. He sustained a knee injury during training camp last year, but had already impressed the Ravens with his outstanding athleticism. He was even being tried as a DB during some drills. Throughout his career at Virginia Tech, Harper was known as a playmaker. He didn’t have a ton of receptions as seen in his senior year when he caught 41 balls. However, he made use of the catches he got averaging 15.5 yards per catch and amassing 5 touchdowns. The Hokies were not known for passing, and having to share time with current Broncos receiver Eddie Royal can account for his relatively low number of catches. Harper is ready to show what he can do, and seems to have found a confidence heading into his 2nd year in the NFL. “Coach Cameron told me I need to start stringing the good practices together, but I want to make all the catches,” Harper said. “I just have to put the good plays behind me and the bad plays behind me, and always work to perfection no matter what.” With Harper healthy, he now has a chance to make the Ravens’ roster. Demetrius and Justin can cause some matchup problems for opposing defenses due to both of their downfield prowess.
Marcus Smith- 6 foot 1, 215 lbs, 2nd year, New Mexico
Marcus in the past has been a special teams player at most. He started on the special teams 5 times last year, plus another 3 for all of the playoff games. Heading into his sophomore year he appears to be getting more action with the offense. Thus far in training camp, Smith has proven to be a tough receiver over the middle, and a great blocker. Smith is also one of the most flexible Ravens since Adilius Thomas. In college at New Mexico, Smith returned kicks and punts. He played in the backfield, and was named All MWC as a WR in his senior year. Smith is a great possession receiver who understands the importance of blocking. He ain’t flashy, but he’ll get the job done.
Kelley Washington- 6 foot 3, 215 lbs, 7th years, Tennessee
Of the three “finalists”, Washington has the most NFL experience, having played seven years to their two. However, he hasn’t done much in his NFL career amounting a total of 73 receptions for just under 900 yards. Along with Marcus Smith, Washington is a tremendous special teams player as well with 25 special team tackles in the past two years with the New England Patriots. Washington is tough inside the hash marks and is a big possession receiver.
Tonight with Mason, Clayton, and Williams sitting against the Redskins all of the forementioned receivers will get a chance to showcase their skills. Along with that competititon to watch there are a few other interesting storylines to watch for:
Michael Oher and other rookies being in competiton for the first time. Oher is expected to start at RT, while DE/OLB Paul Kruger is going to be getting plenty of playing time due to the fact that Terrell Suggs will be sitting out. Some new aquisitions such as C Matt Birk and CB Domonique Foxworth are expected to start tonight so it will be fun to finally see them on the field. With all of this happening, I am just happy that football has started.
Kickoff: 7:30 pm (eastern time)
TV: NBC and MASN
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM) and 98 Rock (97.9 FM)