Brooks: Boldin will anchor Ravens’ aerial attack

 

It’s rare that an NFL trade can be categorized as a “win-win” proposition for both teams involved, but the Ravens’ acquisition of Anquan Boldin from the Cardinals appears to be a boon for both franchises.

Boldin, a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with five 1,000-yard seasons during his seven-year career, was shipped to Baltimore in exchange for third- and fourth-round selections in April’s draft.

While the loss of an all-star receiver appears significant to the Cardinals’ offense on the surface, the fact that the team sports a 6-2 record with Boldin out of the lineup shows it doesn’t skip a beat in his absence.

Steve Breaston and Early Doucet have repeatedly shown that they are capable of handling bigger roles in the game plan, and their emergence in the playoffs undoubtedly gave the team the confidence to move on without one of its top playmakers.

Given two additional choices in the middle of a deep and talented draft, the Cardinals have plenty of ammunition to make up for the departures of a handful of key starters on both sides of the ball.

The addition of Boldin gives the Ravens a legitimate No. 1 receiver to anchor their aerial attack. Boldin is lauded for his toughness and playmaking ability, and the Ravens are in desperate need of both traits at the position.

Although Boldin might lack the speed or explosiveness to warrant double coverage on most downs, his ability to run after the catch gives the Ravens’ offense an added dimension. With Ray Rice and a sledgehammer running game still acting as the offensive focal point, Boldin will find plenty of room to roam over the middle of the field on shallow crosses and digs (15-yard “in” routes) off play-action.

The Ravens have rarely thrown the ball over the middle during QB Joe Flacco‘s first two seasons at the helm, but Boldin’s presence will allow offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to incorporate more throws between the hashes.

In addition to giving the Ravens a dynamic weapon capable of doing damage over the middle, Boldin provides the team with another scoring threat in the red zone. He has scored 24 touchdowns in the past three seasons, and most of those have been the result of explosive runs after short tosses. With the field significantly condensing inside the 20-yard line, Boldin’s superior run-after-catch skills will lead to more touchdowns instead of field goals.

The Ravens have been knocking on the championship door for the past two seasons, but a one-dimensional offensive approach has hindered their advancement. However, the arrival of Boldin might give the Ravens the diversity that they need to climb atop the AFC.

– Bucky Brooks

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