CLEVELAND -- When the Cleveland Browns trimmed their roster down to 53 players after the fourth and final preseason game, they had plenty of youth on their side, especially at the wide receiver position, where only two players had NFL regular-season experience heading into last week’s opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Conversely, the Baltimore Ravens have stacked their offensive arsenal with veteran pass catchers, led by Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace, both of whom help to extend the field more than last year’s corps of receivers when Smith was injured and Wallace played for the Minnesota Vikings.
“The fact that we have the guys that can stretch the field vertically is going to help out with the stuff that you are doing 90 percent of the time,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “It is going to make your offense a lot more efficient in those areas. Instead of getting six yards a catch, you are going to get nine, 10 yards a catch. That goes a long way.”
In Smith, the Ravens have a 16-year pro who has turned 966 catches into 13,951 yards and 76 touchdowns while playing in 14 or more games in 13 of his 16 seasons. However, since coming to the Ravens, Smith has been limited to eight games over two seasons.
“Everything has been great about Steve,” Flacco said. “He is one of the best competitors you will see and one of the best receivers you will ever see. Our relationship has grown throughout the last few years. He has made my job a lot easier for sure.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh added, “I always marveled at how talented he was right from the first day he came out in the draft every time I saw him play, including the Pro Bowls we had a chance to coach and him play and be together.
“Then, to get him here now and to see his personality, his leadership, it is just kind of the type of personality I guess that I really relate to personally and really love his energy, fire and competitiveness. I think he adds to our team in a perfect way. Also, surprisingly, at his age how much he still has -- he can still amaze you with his athleticism. All of those things make us very blessed to have him on our team.”
With Wallace, the Ravens get a deep threat who has turned 417 career receptions into 6,398 yards and 50 touchdowns. Of those touchdowns, Wallace has scored from 56, 60, 66, 82 and 95 yards in his career.
And the Ravens plan on adding to those long touchdown catches during the 2016 season.
“I think he brings a lot,” Flacco said. “He brings his attitude for one. He is a really confident person. I think it rubs off on everybody. He just really brings his skillset. He can run down the field. He is good at the top of the routes. He catches the ball. He is a good football player that brings a really good attitude.”
Harbaugh added, “He brings his talent, certainly, which is he can really run fast and go get a ball, and that showed up Sunday. I’ve always thought he was a good route runner, but we have seen that in person throughout. He can run all the routes and he blocks, great attitude, hard worker, wants to be successful and wants to win. All of those things have been very impressive.”