The Ravens love to zig while the rest of the NFL zags. That’s why they see real value in Dez Bryant when the rest of the league has cast him aside.
Last year the Ravens caught the NFL by storm when they committed to an unusual rushing attack triggered by quarterback Lamar Jackson. John Harbaugh’s commitment to the run game doesn’t just change the way the organization evaluates offensive lineman and running backs. It also changes the way Baltimore views the wide receiver position.
That’s why the team’s recent interest in free agent Dez Bryant makes perfect sense. He’s slated to work out for the team in person this week and if all goes well, an agreement could quickly follow that visit. Baltimore is excited about the prospect of adding Bryant to their roster despite the fact that he hasn’t played a single down of professional football since 2017.
Bryant quickly fell from grace with the Cowboys because he lost the speed required to be an NFL team’s No. 1 wide receiver. He was never an elite speedster, so the loss of a step or two quickly sapped him of any effectiveness he once had when running intermediate or deep routes down the field.
It’s not as if his quickness has magically returned during his absence from the NFL. The Ravens aren’t interested in what Bryant can do for them down the field. Instead, Harbaugh and his coaching staff are excited about what he can do for their offense at the line of scrimmage.
Currently, Baltimore lacks a real physical presence at the wide receiver position. Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin both have significant strengths as players, but neither is going to run anyone over at the point of attack. The lack of a mauling run blocker out wide is, on occasion, an issue for the Ravens’ ability to move the football.
Adding Bryant as a guy who can credibly place as a jumbo slot receiver could open up a lot of flexibility for the Ravens offense in 2020. He’s got the size and mean streak required to dominate slot corners at the point of attack.
Creating that kind of edge in multiple receiver sets could make Baltimore’s run game even more difficult to stop. Giving Jackson that kind of crease is a great way to create long running plays for the reigning NFL MVP.
This doesn’t mean Bryant will never be a factor in the passing game. His big body and subsequently large catch radius can help Jackson keep the chains moving on third downs as well. The point here is only that Bryant’s biggest contribution to the Ravens offense will actually be in aiding the team’s edge rushing attack.
It’s a unique way to look at the wide receiver position, but it makes perfect sense for the offense that Harbaugh runs with the Ravens. Bryant’s blocking ability is the reason why Baltimore sees value in him when the rest of the NFL has given up on his game.