BALTIMORE When the Baltimore Ravens signed wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the team followed what has become a tradition over the years.
The Ravens have struggled to develop young receivers, so they've taken the route of getting already proven pass catchers. The trend includes past additions such as Anquan Boldin, Derek Mason, Steve Smith Sr., and most recently Jeremy Maclin. Injuries kept Maclin from having an impact last year, but the other three veterans Baltimore added yielded excellent results.
Entering his tenth NFL season, Michael Crabtree is the latest veteran to be added to the Ravens roster. He is coming off a down year but still managed to score eight touchdowns on 58 receptions for 618 yards.
Crabtree is known for his precise route running and elite pass-catching ability. Having spent a brief time with quarterback Joe Flacco, Crabtree has already made a great impression.
“He's got a little different way that he runs the routes. He's really crafty with it. He knows when to break away from guys and how to get open,” Flacco said after OTAs last week.
Flacco has a big arm, which is good for delivering the ball down the field. Having played with quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and Derek Carr in Oakland, throwing power is something that he is used to from his signal callers.
However, Crabtree thinks what Flacco brings to the table is different from what he has experienced before.
"That deep ball, I haven't seen anything like that in the air," Crabtree said after his first OTA practice. "That spin is just nice. Being able to catch the ball from Flacco— it's just amazing. That's a good quarterback, man."
Crabtree describes his time with the Ravens as similar to the first day at a new school. He is enjoying the hard work that he has experienced since joining the team.
In his mind, his job is to do whatever it takes to help the quarterback. He plans to run, as many routes with Flacco so the two can get more familiar with each other. Crabtree wants to develop a relationship with Flacco in the locker room as well.
"You need to have that relationship to have accountability on the field. If we are talking in the locker room and we're talking about this and talking about that when game time comes, he's going to expect me to do what we talked about," Crabtree said.
Flacco echoed Crabtree's suggestion of developing a close relationship to help with their chemistry. To do so, they will take it a step further by working out together on their own with the other receivers before training camp.
"There’s no doubt that stuff is important and we’ll do it. I’ve already talked about it with John and Mike. I think sometimes those things are just as much, or more, about developing a relationship with those guys and developing that trust," Flacco explained. "For those to see that I really like who they are as football players and for them to see that, hopefully, they like who I am as a football player. I think when you can get that relationship going, that’s going to help your football team out a ton."
If Crabtree can develop into a trusted target for Flacco, big numbers should be in the future, and together they will strive to elevate the Ravens offense in 2018.