Clayton, Washington Need to Provide Support

Preston NeillContributor IMay 22, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  (L-R) Derrick Mason #85 and Mark Clayton #89 of the Baltimore Ravens stand on the field dejected after their 23-14 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

"Defense wins championships."

When training camps open this summer, it will be the phrase you hear every team utter. If the saying holds true then the Baltimore Ravens look pretty good; they play excellent defense and run the ball well.

So should you start booking flights to Miami now?  Not quite.

Even with the best defense and a solid running game, a team is bound to find itself in a third and long situation.  Or maybe a two-minute drill, down four and the only option is to score a touchdown.

Therein lies the rub for the 2009 Baltimore Ravens.  When the game is on the line, who will second-year quarterback Joe Flacco throw to?

Derrick Mason has been a solid pro and a good safety net for the young Flacco to throw to, but he is going into his 13th season.  Mason caught 80 balls last year and held a solid 13.0 yard per catch average, however you can't expect that to continue.

So this year, the Ravens need to find not only the No. 2 guy for this year, but the No. 1 and No. 2 guy for the future.

After failing to make a pass (pardon the pun) at Anquan Boldin, Terrell Owens, or long shot Braylon Edwards, the Ravens will look to the stable of receivers on the current roster.

Mark Clayton is the most logical choice to step up.  In four years with the Ravens Clayton has put up at least 40 receptions and last year averaged an impressive 17.0 yards per catch.  However, the Ravens are going to need more production from Clayton near the red-zone; Clayton has only 10 career touchdowns.

Free Agent acquisition Kelley Washington could provide a spark to the Ravens offense. Washington had trouble getting on the field with the crowded New England Patriots receiving corps, but showed flashes of being an every down receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals early in his career.

While Clayton and Washington are the obvious choices, there is one player who provides the big play ability that fits Mason's possession receiver role. With a solid training camp and preseason, we could see more of Demetrius Williams lining up on the field.

Williams has 70 yard receptions in two of his three years with the Ravens, and has shown that he can help open up the Raven offense.

If I'm coach John Harbaugh, I would push Williams this training camp to see if he can make the jump. Because if Williams can make it, the Ravens might just jump into the Super Bowl.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.