Doss next man up at WR

Doss next man up at WR
May 1, 2013, 11:00 am
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The Ravens used one pick after another in the early rounds of the NFL Draft on its defense -- taking a safety, an inside linebacker, a defensive tackle and an outside linebacker with their first four picks.

One person who must have been pleased with those developments was wide receiver Tandon Doss. Wide receiver has been viewed as a position of need for the Ravens after the departure of Anquan Boldin via trade, but by selecting no receivers before the seventh round, the Ravens have effectively said Boldin's old job is Doss' to lose.

Well, they haven't said that at all, actually, and coach John Harbaugh frequently says that there is competition for every job. But someone needs to step in and be that No. 2 receiver behind Torrey Smith, and with no plug-and-play additions in the draft, Doss is first in line.

The Ravens could bump tight end Dennis Pitta out into the slot, as they often did in two tight end sets. Jacoby Jones has more experience than Doss, but his work in the return game might limit his work on offense, and he is more of a fly-down-the-field guy than the prototypical possession, slot receiver.

A slew of other receivers  --  David Reed, Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams among them -- figure to get their shot, too.

"These young players get an opportunity to get on the field to  see if they can give us the type of production that we need," general manager Ozzie Newsome said at the pre-draft news conference. "I like all of them. I like all of their chances of playing this year."

But if the season started today, Doss would probably be atop the depth chart. Doss, a fourth-round draft pick out if Indiana in 2011, was Boldin's primary understudy and has spent hours working with and learning from Boldin, a consummate professional receiver.

Coaches have widely praised Doss for having  outstanding hands, though he had several drops last season. He finished the 2012 season with seven catches for 123 yards and one touchdown, which amounts to just a good afternoon for Boldin. Doss didn't play as much as he would have liked, as playing behind the tough Boldin didn't give Doss many chances to be next man up.

It's possible -- likely, in fact -- that the Ravens early run on defensive players in the draft was a strategy designed to shore up that unit, or, as Newsome says, was a case that the best player available each time the Ravens were on the clock happened to be a defensive player.

It's also possible that the Ravens'  lack of attention to receiver in the draft was a tacit endorsement of Doss,  as well as the younger receivers.

Granted, the Ravens could still look to free agency for a receiver, right up to late August when teams are cutting rosters in training camp. But it appears that after two years of waiting, watching and learning from Boldin, Doss' time has come.