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Baltimore Ravens Receivers: Marlon Brown vs Michael Campanaro vs Kamar Aiken

Drafting Breshad Perriman did little to add clarity to the Baltimore Ravens receivers situation. Steve Smith is clearly a starter, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.

Discuss in the BSL Forums here

I’ll go ahead and project Perriman as a starter. Let’s also assume that Darren Waller is at least a year from being a significant contributor, which leaves Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro to round out the depth chart.

Fans are somewhat divided on the question.

To get an idea of what to expect from that trio this year, I took a look at their production and playing time last year.

Start with Marlon Brown, seemingly the fan favorite. On the heels of a productive rookie year and seemingly no competition for the third receiver job, expectations were high for the second-year receiver. Starting with a no-show Week 1, he did not live up to those expectations, with just 255 yards and no touchdowns. Take a look at his week by week snaps and yards from last year.Brown production

Week 1, Brown played 40 snaps and didn’t grab a single ball. From there, his playing time was much more sporadic. In some games, Brown played between 30 and 50 snaps, while in others, he barely played at all. Note that Brown missed some time midseason with a pelvis injury, but his spotty play also resulted in fewer snaps. There were just too many games in which Brown was a non-factor on the field.

The good news is that Brown started to perk back up as the season wore on. He went for a season-high 66 yards in Week 15 against the Jacksonville Jaguars (the Ravens’ 14th game on the chart), and he racked up at least 10 yards in each of his last eight regular season games last year.

Even so, Brown finished last among Ravens’ receivers in yards per route run with 1.08 YPRR per Pro Football Focus. YPRR is a great way to gauge a receiver’s efficiency, and Brown was among the most inefficient receivers in the league last year.

Why Brown struggled early in the 2014 season is unclear, but it opened the door for Kamar Aiken, who was an unknown before training camp. Aiken immediately made an impact, going for 30 yards in his first action Week 1. From there, Aiken was fairly steady in his production with a huge two-week long outlier. See if you can find it in his yardage/snaps chart.Aiken production

In two weeks against the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins, Aiken combined for 116 yards, nearly half of his season total. His snap counts were slightly higher in those two games, but not significantly, so Aiken just had a bit of a hot streak.

That two-week aberration aside, Aiken seemed to settle into the fourth receiver role, getting more snaps than Brown in just four games (including playoffs). Aiken actually received more targets than Brown in almost 100 fewer snaps in route, though. For some reason, Flacco felt more comfortable targeting Aiken last year.

Finally, there is the wildcard: Michael Campanaro. Injuries kept Camp off the field for much of 2014, but when he got on the field, he produced.Campanaro production

Campanaro played in just five games last year (including playoffs), catching seven passes in the regular season and four in the playoffs. In one  loss against the Cincinnati Bengals, Camp actually led all Ravens’ receivers with 40 yards despite playing just 12 snaps. Further, Camp led the team in yards per route run with a healthy 2.55 YPRR.

I wrote at length on Campanaro earlier this offseason, noting that his explosion out of cuts and ability after the catch should make him a bigger part of the offense this year. If he stays healthy, I stand by that. Campanaro is the ideal slot receiver, something Flacco has never really had, so I see Campanaro as the primary slot receiver.

That comes at the expense of Marlon Brown, who, despite his size, plays like an overgrown slot receiver. Brown runs sharp routes and has a knack for finding holes in zone coverage, but he isn’t as explosive after the catch or in his cuts as Campanaro. And despite his massive size advantage, Brown didn’t catch a single touchdown last year, while Campanaro had a leaping touchdown grab against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In sum, based on last year’s production (per route run), a clear pecking order can be established. In order: Campanaro, Aiken and Brown. The Ravens very well could use another platoon like last year, in which that trio took turns as the primary backup, but don’t be surprised if Campanaro starts to separate himself as the main slot receiver.

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