The return of wide receiver Derrick Mason after a short three-week retirement, was a sigh of relief for Ravens fans everywhere. But just because the return of Mason gives QB Joe Flacco a solid number one receiver, doesn't give number two receiver Mark Clayton a break.
The former round one pick has shown flashes of brilliance in his four year career, but he lacks the one thing most important: consistency. Mark Clayton would have a great game one day and disappear the next.
An example of this was his game against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 13. Clayton not only caught a deep bomb one handed, but also threw a ball down field for a touchdown to Derrick Mason. He finished the game with 164 yards off of five receptions.
The next week, against Washington, he caught two balls for only 19 yards. He didn't score another touchdown the entire year, and didn't break 100 yards until week 17, with 128.
However, it isn't just his past performances that are putting pressure on him. Clayton never really had high expectations. The Ravens have featured a run first offense throughout the 13 years of their existence, so he was never asked to do much.
Clayton hasn't had the best people throwing passes to him. He had an aging Steve McNair, and Kyle Boller, who is...well, Kyle Boller. Now he has Joe Flacco throwing to him. The pressure has built immensely.
Under the new offense ran by Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco, is going to feature a lot more passing than before. Although primarily running focused, Clayton and Mason will see a lot more passing than previously, because of the arm strength, confidence and accuracy of their new quarterback.
Second year wideout Justin Harper's recent performance at training camp gives him the possibility of being replaced. Although unlikely. Harper has recently been loudly applauded for his recent training camp catches. Many for touchdowns, as well as several long runs to prove his speed.
The addition of Kelley Washington is a big factor for the Ravens passing game, and even Clayton's job. Although injury stricken over the years, Washington has shown a lot of potential.
If Drew Bennett comes out of retirement, Clayton will most likely be put at number three on the depth chart. He recently signed with the Ravens after his career in St Louis ended. A recent remission of a nagging knee injury made him retire only a day after signing
Fortunately Mason's return gives Clayton another two years or so to develop his skills, but he will still be under intense scrutiny from now one. Whether he is a number one or number two receiver.