Is too much being made of Ravens WR battle?

Is too much being made of Ravens WR battle?
August 27, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Harbaugh makes tough cuts to the roster

As the countdown continues toward the Ravens' final cuts, which must be made by Saturday at 6 p.m., much speculation centers on the logjam at wide receiver.

A slew of receivers have been challenging for jobs, and with just a few days left before the 53-man roster must be determined, it seems as if there won't be enough room for all of them.

Will the Ravens let former fourth-round pick Tandon Doss go? What happens to Deonte Thompson and his gimpy ankle? What about Baltimore native LaQuan Williams? Has undrafted rookie Marlon Brown done enough to earn a spot? What about rookie Aaron Mellette?

Here's another question: Is all of this being overblown?

The Ravens top three receiver spots appear to be set with Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokley. That means the crowd of remaining receivers is competing for jobs as the No. 4, No. 5 or perhaps No. 6 receiver, a job that will involve special teams and only intermittent work on offense.

Doss was basically the Ravens No. 4 receiver last year -- behind Smith, Jones and Anquan Boldin -- and he was targeted a total of 18 times all season. He finished the season with seven catches for 123 yards. LaQuan Williams, who was perhaps the final receiver to make the team last season, had no catches. His value was almost exclusively on special teams. Thompson had five receptions, with four of those in the season finale against Cincinnati when the starters played sparingly.

In other words, receivers behind the top three didn't see a whole lot of action on offense last season. And that's been true historically. In 2011, among wide receivers only Boldin (57) and Smith (50) had more than 10 catches. In fact, not since 2004 have the Ravens had four wide receivers with 10 or more catches in a season.

Then again, there are reasons this year could be different.

First, there's the tight end situation. With Dennis Pitta (hip) out at least most of the season and Ed Dickson battling back from a hamstring injury, quarterback Joe Flacco might rely on his receivers  more and his tight ends less.

Second, Stokley, signed just a few weeks ago, has been impressive in how quickly he's picked up the offense and how quickly he appeared to get on the same page as quarterback Joe Flacco. 

But Stokley is 37. How much does he have left in the tank? Can the Ravens expect him to be out there as a slot receiver every week? If he gets banged up, someone needs to be the next man up. That obviously rings true for Smith or Jones as well.

But when people speculate about whether the Ravens should keep five, six or even seven receivers, the question is really which special teamers should they keep? For history has shown that receivers at the bottom of the depth chart haven't done a whole lot of receiving.