After the first few days of Ravens camp the buzz has centered around a few things; Terrell Suggs absence, Joe Flacco’s progress, and how different camp has been (in a good way) compared to Brian Billick. But, one story that hasn’t been discussed much but will be key in the Raven’s success this year is from the receiving corps.
Enter Mark Clayton.
Clayton was drafted 22nd overall in 2005 out of Oklahoma, and had high credentials as a two time All-American. He set all-time records for receptions and touchdowns at the football power. So the hope was that he would be an impact player on the offensive side of the ball for the purple and black. The last guy named Mark Clayton was a five time Pro Bowler for the Fish in Florida, so there was alot in his corner. In 2006, he was an emerging downfield threat amassing almost 1,000 receiving and catching 67 balls with 5 touchdowns. It looked as if he would be ready to switch roles with long time vet, Derrick Mason as the go to guy on the outside.
Then the sophomore jinx hit hard. He had a high ankle sprain, then turf toe, which limited his availability on game day. He was dealing with personal issues with his family as well. He didn’t catch his first pass until week three and as Ravens spiraled down the standings things never got on track for the promising star. He even considered a leave of absence to get things right.
Now as he heads out to camp he is reporting for 2008, 100% healthy. He was one of the Ravens that took Coach Harbaugh and new offensive guru, Cam Cameron’s hiring as a sign of a fresh chance. He worked diligently to get his body sound and his mind got a workout absorbing the new playbook. But, he appears ready for a chance to prove himself.
As long as he is healthy he should be able to build on the 2006 campaign and dismiss last season as a bad dream. The Ravens vanilla offense for years has lacked that dynamic game changing type player. The guy that other defenses are afraid of. So, with Todd Heap returning (please stop lobbing balls up to him so he can cold cocked every third down) and hopefully Demetrius Williams healthy as well, whomever starting behind center will have some legit weapons to toss to. Clayton has the pedigree and the tools to be that breakout threat that the Ravens so desperately need.
All he needs is to show up on the field.