Young’uns Gunning For WR Spots

The Ravens could have a tough competition between a group of young wideouts.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Saturday, February 19th, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Categories: Mike Duffy

There is still a long way to go before the Ravens’ final roster is set for the 2010 campaign, but a glance at the current team sets us up a youthful competition at wideout.
 
Behind Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and recent signee Brandon Jones, there are four receivers with three years of experience or less (T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents). Marcus Smith and Justin Harper both have been in the league three years, James Hardy has two seasons under his belt, and David Reed will enter his second year.
 
With the NFL Draft and a free agency period still to come (whenever that maybe), each youngster must prove he should be the one to survive any influx of players at the position. Whether it is special teams know-how, size or speed, each one brings something unique to the table.
 
Here is a look at how the young guns stand up:
 
Marcus Smith
6-foot-1, 225 pounds; 3 years
Career Stats: 8 special teams tackles, 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns
Smith was a solid special teamer for the Ravens after coming back from a 2009 campaign spent on Injured Reserve (knee).  Smith’s modus operandi is his toughness in the open field when he is sprinting down returners.  He saw a few reps at receiver in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos, but did not record any catches all year.  Smith’s ability to play special teams should help him.
 
Justin Harper
6-foot-3, 226 pounds; 3 years
Career Stats: 1 special teams tackle, 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns
The former seventh-round draft pick spent all of 2010 and most of 2009 on the Ravens’ practice squad.  Harper’s size is an asset to him.  He has a big body, long arms and a long stride.  The fact that the Ravens have kept him around for three years – he was on IR as a rookie because of a knee injury suffered in training camp – is a positive because he has an intricate knowledge of Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron’s system.
 
James Hardy
6-foot-6, 217 pounds; 2 years
Career Stats: 0 special teams tackles, 10 receptions, 96 yards, 2 touchdowns
A former second-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, knee injuries have hampered Hardy throughout his professional career.  Supremely tall, the former Indiana University basketball and football player could be a dangerous red-zone threat if he could simply stay healthy.  Obviously, he has NFL talent, but the Bills decided to release him with their final cut last year. He hasn’t played for a team since.
 
David Reed
6-foot, 190 pounds; 1 year
Career Stats: 11 special teams tackles, 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns, 29.3-yard KOR average, 1 KOR touchdown
Arguably the Ravens’ best special teamer as a rookie, the fifth-round draft pick was a standout in returns and coverage.  He showed flashes during training camp of what he can do as a receiver, catching everything thrown his way.  Where Reed said he wanted to improve is his knowledge of the offense.  Another year in Baltimore should help that.

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