Oct 12, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (15) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
If it seems like the Raven’s offense has been stagnant the last few weeks, it’s because it has. After kicking off he season with numerous big plays by Steve Smith, opposing defenses have successfully limited his contributions of late with extra defensive attention. It’s also quite possible and realistic to think that Smith might be slowing down a bit. Just don’t tell him we said that.
After kicking off the season by going over 70 receiving yards in 5 out of 6 games, Smith has posted lines of 67, 35, 36, and 17 the last four. His last gain over 15 yards came back in week 7 against the Falcons, and he has been held out of the end zone since week 6. Joe Flacco has found Torrey Smith for a couple of big gains lately, but nothing over 35 yards since week 7.
Michael Campanaro checks in at a slight 5’11” and 192 pounds, but is the all time leading wide receiver at Wake Forest thanks to a sure pair of hands, excellent route running ability, and a speedy 4.46 40 time.
It’s nice to see Torrey coming on the last few weeks, and he has posted catches of 30+ yards in 3 out of the last 4 games. Outside of that, the Ravens have been largely devoid of big plays outside of a few Justin Forsett runs. They desperately need guys who can turn small gains into big ones, guys who can tilt the outcome of a game in one or two plays. Speedy receivers who can change a game’s momentum in seconds. Guys like the early season Steve Smith, not the slow footed Owen Daniels.
One player who has the potential to be that guy down the stretch is rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro. Camp finally got his shot at significant playing time against the Bucs in week six when he secured a 19 yard touchdown, and he grabbed a 17 yarder against Atlanta the next week. In week eight, he started off hot against the Bengals, securing 3 of 3 targets for 40 yard with long 19 yard gain mixed in.
In the first quarter, Campanaro was the only Raven’s receiver who was moving the chains, and he appeared to be on his way to a major breakout performance. Camp even replaced Jacoby Jones on punt returns as the coaching staff finally seemed to recognize his playmaking potential. Unfortunately, Camp went down with a hamstring injury on one of those returns and has been on the shelf ever since.
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Hamstring injuries are notoriously unpredictable, especially for wide receivers. Campanaro isn’t resting on his laurels during the bye week with most players headed home, however. He is rehabbing at the Under Armor Performance Center every day with an eye towards making his return after the bye, as John Harbaugh revealed this week.
“Got our fingers crossed,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said of the possibility of a Week 11 return. “I talked to Michael today and he’s got his fingers crossed.”
Michael Campanaro checks in at a slight 5’11” and 192 pounds, but is the all time leading wide receiver at Wake Forest thanks to a sure pair of hands, excellent route running ability, and a speedy 4.46 40 time. His measurables and raw ability helped him draw a lot of predraft comparisons to Wes Welker, one of the best slot receivers in the history of the NFL.
Campanaro’s emergence in the slot will add an entirely new dimension to the Raven’s offense, which currently lacks any sort of viable threat there. Marlon Brown has demonstrated a reliable and sure pair of hands in the past, but has been a disappointment this season, as has stone handed Jacoby Jones.
The Ravens have already recognized the upside that Michael Campanaro brings to this offense, and they are obviously ready to cut him loose once he is healthy enough to go. The biggest concern at this point, as it is with any undersized player, is if he can sustain health for the rest of the season. If he can, don’t be surprised to see him breaking off big plays, perhaps as soon as next week.