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Heading into the offseason, the Ravens No. 3 wide receiver spot was expected to be one of the most tightly contested position battles.
Then the Ravens added veteran free-agent receiver Jacoby Jones and rookie Tommy Streeter, making the field even more crowded.
Jones is the early favorite for the job, but second-year wideouts Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams and third-year receiver David Reed don’t plan on bowing out of the race any time soon.
“It’s definitely more competition and it’s going to bring the best out of all of us,” Reed said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Doss, Williams and Reed all got limited reps on offense last year, but they are heading into the season hoping to prove they deserve more playing time.
“I want to be a starter,” Doss said. “I didn’t come here to sit. I didn’t come here to watch other guys in front of me. I came here to make plays and make our offense and help win games.”
Doss was a fourth-round draft pick last year and was active for seven games throughout the season. He spent time on special teams and also helped fill in at receiver in the final two games when Anquan Boldin went down with an injury.
He didn’t have any catches, but showed off good hands in the preseason. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he also has good size and emphasizes that he’s faster than people think.
“People think I’m slower because of the offense that we ran at Indiana, but that’s a myth. I do have speed behind me,” Doss said. “I’m very versatile. I have great hands. I run good routes. I understand defenses very well.”
Williams got the most work at receiver out of the three, finishing the year with four catches for 46 yards. He made two of those catches in a hostile atmosphere in Pittsburgh, showing the ability to come up with big plays in clutch situations.
He also spent much of the season playing special teams, and came up with a key play in the AFC championship game by forcing a fumble on a kickoff.
“I think I can bring versatility,” Williams said. “I can pretty much do anything. I can take you deep, I can beat you underneath, I can bring the blocking game, anything.”
Williams was an undrafted player out of Maryland who made the roster after shining in training camp.
He’s hoping to do that again this year.
“Overall, I just want to stand out in camp,” Williams said. “That third receiver spot is going to come down to the person who stands out the most, the person who makes the most plays.”
Reed is working his way back from a torn ACL that he suffered on Dec. 24 against the Cleveland Browns. He underwent surgery this offseason, and has been one of the most consistent faces in the team’s facility as he rehabs the injury.
He’s not back to full strength yet, but is happy with how he’s progressing.
“I feel like I’m a little bit ahead of schedule and I feel like I’m better than ever, actually,” he said. “I’m working on things that I’ve never worked on before. My whole body feels strong right now and I’m just going to keep getting better and better.”
Reed doesn’t have any receptions during his first two seasons, which were both riddled with injuries, but he started getting worked into the offense more last year before suffering the knee injury.
He has most of his experience on special teams as a kick returner, but he still views himself as a wideout.
“I’m a receiver and I know I’m going to be playing receiver,” he said.
It’s unclear exactly when Reed will be able to return to full strength, but he hopes to be back by the start of the season.
The other uncertainty is how many receivers the Ravens plan to carry on the roster. They kept six receivers on the 53-man roster last season, and if that’s the case again this year, then Reed, Williams and Doss could likely be fighting for their roster spots throughout training camp.
“I think you got to battle each and every day no matter what the position is,” Doss said. “It’s our job now. I can’t look at it like, ‘I’m behind this guy, so I’m going to let him do his thing.’”
“We have a lot of good receivers on this team right now and I feel like the coaches have a lot to play with,” Reed added. “We’re going to have a lot of firepower.”