OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Of Rashod Bateman’s 12 catches this season, 11 have been for first downs.
The one that wasn’t was also pretty memorable.
Last weekend, as Baltimore was trying to mount a last-minute drive in a tie game, Bateman reached out with one arm and pulled in a pass from Lamar Jackson for a 6-yard gain. The Ravens didn’t score on that possession — they went on to win in overtime — but that was another reminder of the potential Baltimore saw when it drafted Bateman in the first round this year.
“It just happens like that sometimes,” Bateman said. “The tough catches come when you’re not really expecting it, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it that time.”
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The Ravens added Bateman during an offseason in which improving their 32nd-ranked passing game was a priority. Then he had to miss the first five games of the season because of groin problems. Despite that and other injuries, Baltimore leads the AFC North going into Thursday night’s game at Miami, and there’s still a sense that the Ravens have room to grow.
Bateman is a significant part of those high hopes. In three games, he’s caught 12 passes for 161 yards. He had a drop in his first game that caromed to a defender for an interception, but he’s also made some tough catches, including a grab on third-and-4 on Sunday when he outfought a defender for a pass over the middle.
“You’ve got to get first downs to score touchdowns, so that’s big,” Bateman said. “I’m excited that I’m able to contribute and help the team the best way possible. So, if I’m a first down guy, then I guess I’ll take that role.”
One thing Bateman hasn’t done yet is score a touchdown, but it feels as if that will come soon enough, and he does have something in mind to celebrate.
“I do want to give a ball to my mom, but that depends on where we play,” he said.
The Ravens were already showing some improvement in the passing game when Bateman returned from his injury. Jackson has almost as many yards passing (2,209) in eight games as he did the whole season (2,757) in 2020. Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews have led the way in terms of pass catching, but Sammy Watkins — another offseason acquisition — has been limited by injury issues of his own.
If the Ravens are able to get all their top receiving options healthy at the same time, an already impressive offense could become even better.
“I think the show is just ready to begin,” Baltimore defensive back Marlon Humphrey said. “What I saw in training camp, what I was trying to cover all training camp … I think all those things are starting to click, and it’s starting to click at the right time.”
Bateman’s immediate contribution has been a positive sign, not only because it shows his potential, but because it’s an indication that he and Jackson have good chemistry already — despite not having as much time together as planned.
“The times that we were out there, we made sure that we were connecting,” Bateman said. “If it didn’t work, we ran the route again. We ran it back to make sure we got that feel of a completion. I think little things like that have definitely helped us in the long run, and we’re going to continue to do those things to make sure that we get comfortable.”
NOTES: Watkins (thigh) is questionable for Thursday and so are NT Brandon Williams (shoulder) and TE Nick Boyle (knee). OL Patrick Mekari (ankle) and RB Latavius Murray (ankle) are doubtful.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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