For the Baltimore Ravens it’s all about what they get out of Miles Boykin:
The addition of rookie J.K Dobbins to a Baltimore Ravens record-breaking running group this offseason pretty much confirmed that this year’s offense figures to advance down the field in a similar fashion to last year’s: Punishing people on the ground.
Of course, quarterback Lamar Jackson pads those running stats a good bit with his unique abilities, but a stable featuring Dobbins, Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill figures to do plenty of damage on its own. And, if we’re passing out plaudits today, let’s include offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s creative play-calling and the offensive line’s ability to create room.
And, not to be outdone, how about the multi-dimensional Nick Boyle and Pat Ricard leveling would-be defenders at the line while receiver Miles Boykin helps spring the long ones with his downfield blocking on defensive backs? In fact, let’s talk about Boykin for a minute.
The second-year receiver out of Notre Dame made a few splash plays last season as a receiver, but did a lot of his really special work blocking — and that’s great, particularly in the Ravens unique offense. But crediting a receiver for his blocking is like focusing your attention on a cornerback for how he tackles, or a Marine for how he spit-shines his boots. I mean, it’s good. It’s real good. But there are certain other expectations that come from the wide receiver position. You know, like catching a football.
Boykin has every tool you would want out of an “X” receiver. He’s big. He’s fast. He has shown an ability to use his body as a shell against defenders when taking in slants, and he does a nice job working his way back to Jackson when the quarterback gets off-schedule.
At Notre Dame, Boykin displayed an ability to become a bigger part of the offense each season, jumping his receptions from six to 12 to 59 over his three years in South Bend. He then went and destroyed his Combine performance, registering a 4.42 40 and a 6.77-second three cone drill.
So, yeah. Boykin has the characteristics, work ethic and proven track record of improving to provide some optimism that he will grow into a complete receiver that can open up everything else for the Ravens offense going forward. Jackson’s passing improved by leaps and bounds from his first into his second season, and there’s no good reason to expect he won’t continue to get better.
Where Jackson has really shined, to this point, is to the middle of the field, illustrated by pinpoint seam throws to tight end Mark Andrews, perfectly-placed posts to Marquise Brown and using creative arm angles and a deft touch to hit crossing routes in traffic.
If Boykin and Jackson can develop a connection on the boundaries, along with those aforementioned slants to keep opponents on their toes, that middle of the field will become even more available for Jackson, and safeties having to watch both Brown and Boykin from play to play will make the running game that much easier to function.
Boykin doesn’t have to become a 1,400-yard receiver. I’m not sure that’s even a thing in an offense that operates like this Ravens team does. Boykin doesn’t even have to become the team’s top receiver. But if he can develop into his tools, and sting teams from a different direction than they are used to getting stung by Jackson and company, the sky’s the limit.
And, if he doesn’t, well, the Ravens might be looking again at an offense that’s nearly impossible to stop when they have a lead, but finds itself severely hamstrung when forced to open things up to come back. Boykin could very well be the key.