New weapons Boldin, Stallworth have Ravens excited

There’s a reason Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been walking around with a smile on his face. He just received two belated Christmas presents.

First, the Ravens signed free-agent wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth. Then, they acquired former Cardinals wideout Anquan Boldin (and a fifth-round draft pick) for third- and fourth-round draft picks. Then, on Wednesday, Derrick Mason, the team’s No. 1 wide receiver in 2009, re-signed for two more years.

The Ravens' coaches plan to exploit Boldin's versatility all over the field.
The Ravens’ coaches plan to exploit Boldin’s versatility all over the field.

Baltimore’s wide receiver situation had screamed for an upgrade—Mason was the only consistently productive player at the position last season, and running back Ray Rice led the team in receptions—and Boldin and Stallworth should provide it.

"They’re great additions," Cameron said Wednesday.

In seven seasons with the Cardinals, most of them playing second fiddle to Larry Fitzgerald, Boldin averaged almost 84 catches and 1,074 yards per season. He has 44 touchdowns. He was the NFL’s 11th-leading receiver last season with 84 receptions for 1,024 yards and four touchdowns.

"He’s just a big, physical receiver who has been Pro Bowl productive his whole career," said Cameron, who likes Boldin’s versatility. "He can play the X (split end), he can play the Z (flanker) and he can come down inside and play the slot. We should hit the ground running with Anquan."

The Ravens might have to be more patient with Stallworth, suspended for the 2009 season after he was charged with DUI manslaughter (his vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Miami last April). In seven NFL seasons, Stallworth has caught 296 passes for 4,383 yards (14.8 average) and 32 touchdowns. He is expected to provide a vertical presence for the Ravens’ passing game.

"The one thing he’s always brought to the table is speed," Cameron said. "He (ran) a 4.2-something coming out of college. We clocked him in 4.4 when we worked him out, so the great news is he still can run."

Arizona drafted Boldin in the second round in 2003. There had been a serious discussion about Boldin in the Ravens’ war room that year, but general manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t pull the trigger because he didn’t think Boldin measurable skills met the club’s minimums.

Baltimore says Donte' Stallworth still has the speed to stretch defenses.
Baltimore says Donte’ Stallworth still has the speed to stretch defenses.

"Not too many times do you get a chance to recover from a mistake, and I think I made a mistake in that draft worrying more about measurables than worrying about the football player," Newsome said at Boldin’s introductory press conference in Baltimore. "And what Anquan is, is a football player."

Now that Boldin and Stallworth have arrived, the next step is for them to start establishing a chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco. Cameron is less concerned about how the two receivers fit into the Ravens’ scheme—"X’s and O’s are X’s and O’s," he said—than he is about them forming bonds with the third-year quarterback. 

Cameron hopes to accelerate that process during the offseason program, where Flacco will spend extra time throwing to his two new targets. Before practice. After practice. In the moments of down time during practice.

Flacco and Boldin got a jump-start last Saturday—coincidentally, it was the day of the Boldin trade—when they both attended Kurt Warner’s touch football fundraiser in Arizona. While they were there, Flacco threw some passes to Boldin.

Flacco generally is a man of few words, but he’s just as excited as Cameron is to have Boldin and Stallworth on his side.

"Deep inside," Cameron said, "I know he’s champing at the bit to get to work and start getting ready with these guys."

Although the Ravens ranked ninth in scoring last season, they were only 18th in passing yards. They went 9-7 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card team, but once they got into the postseason they were too one-dimensional. In two games, they rushed for 321 yards, including 234 in a wild-card win over New England, but their wideouts caught only eight passes for 112 yards.
 
Cameron, however, disputed the notion he didn’t have enough weapons in the passing game.

"We didn’t execute the way we could at times, but I never felt handcuffed," he said. "People have been putting all this stuff on our receivers. The bottom line is if we had executed the way we are capable, it probably wouldn’t be as much as a focal point."

If Boldin and Stallworth work out as expected — and Mason continues to be a key contributor at age 36 — much attention will be on the Ravens’ receivers again next season. For what they can do, rather than what they can’t. 

Tough to catch

It might not be fair to blame the wide receivers for Baltimore’s aborted appearance in the playoffs—it beat the Patriots in the first round but lost to the Colts the next week—but the Ravens didn’t get much help from their wideouts.

In two playoff games, Ravens wide receivers caught only eight passes for 112 yards. Among the 12 playoff teams, only the Jets had fewer receptions, yards and touchdowns by their wide receivers during the regular season.

Team Rec. Yards TDs
Patriots 273 3,386 20
Cardinals 271 3,228 21
Colts 211 2,733 21
Vikings 207 2,825 19
Packers 193 2,934 17
Bengals 182 2,284 19
Saints 181 2,759 22
Eagles 175 2,754 16
Cowboys 170 2,755 24
Chargers 153 2,376 13
Ravens 149 2,081 10
Jets 134 1,844 9

This story appears in March 11’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today for free.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

There’s a reason Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been walking around with a smile on his face. He just received two belated Christmas presents.

First, the Ravens signed free-agent wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth. Then, they acquired former Cardinals wideout Anquan Boldin (and a fifth-round draft pick) for third- and fourth-round draft picks. Then, on Wednesday, Derrick Mason, the team’s No. 1 wide receiver in 2009, re-signed for two more years.

The Ravens' coaches plan to exploit Boldin's versatility all over the field.
The Ravens’ coaches plan to exploit Boldin’s versatility all over the field.

Baltimore’s wide receiver situation had screamed for an upgrade—Mason was the only consistently productive player at the position last season, and running back Ray Rice led the team in receptions—and Boldin and Stallworth should provide it.

"They’re great additions," Cameron said Wednesday.

In seven seasons with the Cardinals, most of them playing second fiddle to Larry Fitzgerald, Boldin averaged almost 84 catches and 1,074 yards per season. He has 44 touchdowns. He was the NFL’s 11th-leading receiver last season with 84 receptions for 1,024 yards and four touchdowns.

"He’s just a big, physical receiver who has been Pro Bowl productive his whole career," said Cameron, who likes Boldin’s versatility. "He can play the X (split end), he can play the Z (flanker) and he can come down inside and play the slot. We should hit the ground running with Anquan."

The Ravens might have to be more patient with Stallworth, suspended for the 2009 season after he was charged with DUI manslaughter (his vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Miami last April). In seven NFL seasons, Stallworth has caught 296 passes for 4,383 yards (14.8 average) and 32 touchdowns. He is expected to provide a vertical presence for the Ravens’ passing game.

"The one thing he’s always brought to the table is speed," Cameron said. "He (ran) a 4.2-something coming out of college. We clocked him in 4.4 when we worked him out, so the great news is he still can run."

Arizona drafted Boldin in the second round in 2003. There had been a serious discussion about Boldin in the Ravens’ war room that year, but general manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t pull the trigger because he didn’t think Boldin measurable skills met the club’s minimums.

Baltimore says Donte' Stallworth still has the speed to stretch defenses.
Baltimore says Donte’ Stallworth still has the speed to stretch defenses.

"Not too many times do you get a chance to recover from a mistake, and I think I made a mistake in that draft worrying more about measurables than worrying about the football player," Newsome said at Boldin’s introductory press conference in Baltimore. "And what Anquan is, is a football player."

Now that Boldin and Stallworth have arrived, the next step is for them to start establishing a chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco. Cameron is less concerned about how the two receivers fit into the Ravens’ scheme—"X’s and O’s are X’s and O’s," he said—than he is about them forming bonds with the third-year quarterback. 

Cameron hopes to accelerate that process during the offseason program, where Flacco will spend extra time throwing to his two new targets. Before practice. After practice. In the moments of down time during practice.

Flacco and Boldin got a jump-start last Saturday—coincidentally, it was the day of the Boldin trade—when they both attended Kurt Warner’s touch football fundraiser in Arizona. While they were there, Flacco threw some passes to Boldin.

Flacco generally is a man of few words, but he’s just as excited as Cameron is to have Boldin and Stallworth on his side.

"Deep inside," Cameron said, "I know he’s champing at the bit to get to work and start getting ready with these guys."

Although the Ravens ranked ninth in scoring last season, they were only 18th in passing yards. They went 9-7 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card team, but once they got into the postseason they were too one-dimensional. In two games, they rushed for 321 yards, including 234 in a wild-card win over New England, but their wideouts caught only eight passes for 112 yards.
 
Cameron, however, disputed the notion he didn’t have enough weapons in the passing game.

"We didn’t execute the way we could at times, but I never felt handcuffed," he said. "People have been putting all this stuff on our receivers. The bottom line is if we had executed the way we are capable, it probably wouldn’t be as much as a focal point."

If Boldin and Stallworth work out as expected — and Mason continues to be a key contributor at age 36 — much attention will be on the Ravens’ receivers again next season. For what they can do, rather than what they can’t. 

Tough to catch

It might not be fair to blame the wide receivers for Baltimore’s aborted appearance in the playoffs—it beat the Patriots in the first round but lost to the Colts the next week—but the Ravens didn’t get much help from their wideouts.

In two playoff games, Ravens wide receivers caught only eight passes for 112 yards. Among the 12 playoff teams, only the Jets had fewer receptions, yards and touchdowns by their wide receivers during the regular season.

Team Rec. Yards TDs
Patriots 273 3,386 20
Cardinals 271 3,228 21
Colts 211 2,733 21
Vikings 207 2,825 19
Packers 193 2,934 17
Bengals 182 2,284 19
Saints 181 2,759 22
Eagles 175 2,754 16
Cowboys 170 2,755 24
Chargers 153 2,376 13
Ravens 149 2,081 10
Jets 134 1,844 9

This story appears in March 11’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today for free.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

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