The Baltimore Ravens may be without Lamar Jackson as they bid to bounce back in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears. While the status of their star quarterback is in question, the Ravens will be undermanned at wide receiver, piling the pressure on a rookie most expect to blossom into a star to produce a breakout showing.
Baltimore downgraded Marquise Brown to out because of a thigh injury, meaning that, if Jackson can shake off an illness that has him listed as questionable for the trip to Soldier Field, his top target beyond reliable tight end Mark Andrews is likely to be rookie wideout Rashod Bateman.
Bateman looked a steal for the Ravens with the 27th overall pick in the first round of this year’s draft. In his collegiate career at Minnesota, he demonstrated all the tools necessary to develop into a number one receiver.
Having showcased the ability to create separation with his route-running, win consistently at the catch point and gain yards after the catch, it was no surprise to see him billed as the missing piece in the Ravens’ passing game.
His recovery from groin surgery prolonged his wait to justify such praise but, after a promising start to his pro career, Bateman now has the chance to prove a lot of people right in an expanded role with Brown on the shelf.
Through his first four games with the Ravens, Bateman has 18 catches on 28 targets for 241 yards. Averaging 13.4 yards per reception and with 15 of his catches going for a first down, he is already establishing himself as a reliable chain mover.
The Ravens will be pleased with his impact so far, but the reality is they drafted him to be more than just a chain mover. Bateman is a receiver with the ability to consistently produce explosive plays and, in the absence of Brown, Baltimore may rely on him to show off that talent.
An average depth of target of 10 yards that is 76th, per Pro Football Reference, in the NFL may well increase, especially against an ailing Chicago Bears defense that will be without edge rusher Khalil Mack for the rest of the season, ranks 21st in yards per play allowed and is 22nd in explosive pass rate allowed, according to Sharp Football Stats.
The Ravens’ chances of victory in Chicago will be significantly hit if they are forced to go with Tyler Huntley over Jackson. However, regardless of who is at quarterback, Baltimore’s success in putting up more points than a suddenly exciting Bears offense led by Justin Fields may well hinge on whether Bateman takes advantage of a clear opportunity to live up to his pre-draft reputation.