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Impact of Rashod Bateman injury on Baltimore Ravens’ offense, Lamar Jackson

Matt Fitzgerald

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The Baltimore Ravens were hoping first-round draft pick Rashod Bateman would come in and prove to be an immediate go-to option for MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, but unfortunately, a groin injury to the promising rookie has derailed those dreams.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced on Wednesday that Bateman will miss multiple weeks due to an injury he recently suffered:

The good news is Harbaugh clarified that Bateman wouldn’t miss months, which most outsiders probably didn’t know was on the table upon first hearing of his injury.

Nevertheless, it’s worth breaking down what Bateman’s absence means for Jackson and the Ravens offense as they try to navigate the start of a 2021 season rife with expectations.

See where the Ravens fall in our latest NFL power rankings

Rashod Bateman injury puts rookie further behind NFL learning curve

Rashod Bateman injury puts rookie further behind NFL learning curve
Jul 28, 2021; Owings Mills, MD, United States; Baltimore Ravens wide receivers Rashod Bateman (12) and Sammy Watkins (14) talk during a break at Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Bateman already had an advanced skill set coming out of Minnesota in terms of route-running, explosiveness and ball skills. By all accounts, he seems to be of high football character, and his polish as a prospect reflects that.

However, Baltimore’s system is completely unique since Jackson is at QB. Some of its passing concepts are simpler than other places around the NFL, yet Jackson’s ability to extend plays means it takes a while for his receivers to get on the same page when scramble drills break out.

While Sammy Watkins is now in the fold as a veteran Bateman can lean on as a mentor, the lack of live game reps he’s liable to miss being sidelined this long could be detrimental to his overall ability to make an impact as a first-year player.

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Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, Bateman ranked 12th on Sportsnaut’s top 100 prospects big board. Funny enough, that matches his Ravens jersey number, and it seemed like he was a steal when Baltimore nabbed him with the 27th overall pick.

Because he contracted COVID-19, Bateman played only five games in 2020, yet still logged 36 receptions for 472 yards in those contests as he adjusted to a significantly lighter playing weight.

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Lamar Jackson needs receivers to step up as mega contract extension looms

Lamar Jackson needs receivers to step up as mega contract extension looms
May 26, 2021; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) passes the ball during an OTA at Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
  • Lamar Jackson stats (2020, Baltimore Ravens): 242-of-376 passing (64.4% completion rate), 2,757 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 99.3 passer rating; 159 carries, 1,005 yards, seven touchdowns

Marquise Brown is a recent first-round wideout who’s disappointed and failed to live up to the hype, hence the decision to draft Bateman and sign Watkins. That Ravens receiving corps looks a lot better than it did on paper in 2020, yet Watkins hasn’t been counted on to be a No. 1 receiver in several years, and now Bateman is out.

Not only is Jackson coming off a second positive COVID-19 test, but he’s also facing massive scrutiny as he tries to secure a big payday on his second contract and vault Baltimore into legitimate Super Bowl contention. Although his style of play has held up thus far, Jackson takes lots of hits, and must keep progressing as a pocket passer.

Jackson’s shortcomings in that area can’t be pinned entirely on him, though. As mentioned above, Brown has been of little help save for occasional splash plays, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman really doesn’t make life any easier on Jackson in terms of giving him easier, short-area throws to execute.

Among QBs who started the entire season for their teams last year, Jackson had the fifth-highest intended air yards per attempt according to Next Gen Stats (8.9), ranking behind only Tom Brady, Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford.

That’s a lot to ask of someone who’s constantly running the ball in addition to throwing it. Watkins’ experience should help Jackson get some easier completions in 2021, but not getting much shared practice time with Bateman certainly won’t help the cause.

Bateman averaged over 20 yards per catch en route to 1,219 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019 at Minnesota. He has all the tools to be an immediate impact player. Sadly, it’s going to be a bit of a wait to see if Bateman has what it takes to be the long-awaited No. 1 receiver Jackson has needed since his tenure in Baltimore began.

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