Link maker

Ravens Undrafted WR could be the missing link for the offense

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Ravens WR Shemar Bridges celebrates after scoring a touchdown on his NFL debut.

The Baltimore Ravens have been looking for a wide receiver who can win and make plays on the road for nearly a decade since they traded Anquan Boldin in the offseason after their Superbowl-winning season in 2012.

Their quest to find a tall playmaker to line up at ‘X’ wide receiver has included retraining by seasoned veterans, draft picks as early as the first round and as late as the sixth, and Undrafted free agents to no avail although Marlon Brown showed promise as an undrafted rookie in 2013.

While it’s still too early to tell and unfair to compare him to a future Hall of Famer like Boldin, the Ravens may have just stumbled upon their diamond in the rough in undrafted rookie Shemar Bridges. The former Fort Valley State College standout joined fourth-round rookie tight end Isaiah Likely as the two brightest stars in the team’s 23-10 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 of the pre-season on August 11, 2022.

The little school product knew he had to make the most of his opportunities in a live game against an opposing team and did so with a very good performance against the Titans. He showed the ability to go up and down with contested catches and even a nuanced running route to record a team-leading 62 receiving yards and one touchdown on four catches.

“I just wanted to come into this game and show that I can play big and do it on a consistent level,” Bridges said in his post-game press conference on Aug. 11, 2022. “I feel like I did well with that. I still have a lot of work to do. I just have to stay humble and keep going.

He was determined to put on tape for coaches some of the same strong flashes he showed in practice as a wide receiver, run blocker and special teams contributor.

“I just try to make an impact and do whatever I have to do,” Bridges said.

At 6-4, he towers over most of the defensive backs he lines up against and says he likes to use his length, weight and size to “catch people up and lock them in”. On his 14-yard touchdown, he did just that when he took out a Titans defenseman to win the impressive score on a back shoulder fade, which is often a go-to route for bigger receivers.

“I feel like a big receiver who can play big,” Bridges said. “But also, I feel like I’m learning to ride routes, getting better at running routes and being able to be flexible and versatile with my height.”

During his time with the Ravens, Boldin’s most memorable and timely plays came in situations where he used his height advantage to make clutch plays for touchdowns and key conversions.

Having that kind of weapon on the outside would help quarterback Lamar Jackson elevate his game even further and would be a great complement against wide sophomore Rashod Bateman who is set to burst in 2022.

Finish in Baltimore

Bridges said the Ravens were one of the most aggressive teams chasing him after the draft. He felt like the fit was great and the opportunity to make the team a good one, especially since they traded one of their best receivers and didn’t take one. during the draft.

“I felt like it was a good situation,” Bridges said. “I met one of the scouts who really helped me get here to an HBCU Bowl. I just ran away there. Through other connections I thought it was a great situation and I love it here.

While his stock is certainly on the rise after a hot start to training camp and pre-season, he knows his place on the final 53-man roster is far from assured. He’s highly motivated not only to make the team, but to make a name for himself in the league and knows that means being more than just a talented pass receiver.

“I just have to keep working hard, keep working hard, do things on special teams, keep working hard and improve the things that I need to improve,” Bridges said.

Coaches’ impressions and perspectives

Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman agrees with the freshman wide that he has some areas of improvement where his game could be refined. Nonetheless, he is happy with Bridges’ current state of development and that “he is doing a good job”.

“He’s a good young prospect who really shines,” Roman said at a press conference on Aug. 14, 2022. “All these young guys, they work on these different tools every day, and I think that’s is a very diligent worker.

Bridges didn’t get the chance to face special teams as much in the second half of the preseason opener as he did in the first, but he still performed well on those units at practice and will have more opportunities in the remaining two exhibition games. .

“He’s done a good job, and we just have to find ways to get him in the right position and let him play,” special teams coordinator Chris Horton said at a news conference Aug. 14, 2022. “He’ll play some more on [special] teams he played last week. Just some things happened throughout the game, where we didn’t kick [in] the second half, so he didn’t get a chance to play shooter. But he will have the opportunity to show his skills.