Posted: Tuesday June 14, 2005 12:32PM; Updated: Tuesday June 14, 2005 2:28PM
Derrick Mason has four consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving.
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Kyle Boller beamed on Monday afternoon, shortly after finishing the first day of the Baltimore Ravens mandatory mini-camp. He couldn't contain his delight. Hell, the third-year quarterback was downright giddy, and for good reason. Of all the resources Baltimore has given him recently -- a more creative offensive coordinator (Jim Fassel), a new quarterbacks coach (RickNeuheisel) and a polished receiver selected in the first round of this year's draft (Mark Clayton) -- none will be more valuable than the presence of Derrick Mason.
There were certainly splashier moves made during this offseason but the Ravens' signing of Mason ranks among the smartest. He's a classy pro, a steady possession receiver with exceptional quickness, toughness and a selfless attitude. Vastly underrated during his eight years with Tennessee, Mason will be the go-to, No. 1 receiver the Ravens have long coveted.
How long have Ravens fans waited for such a player? Let's just say Qadry Ismail and Michael Jackson are the most prolific pass-catchers in franchise history. Last season alone the Ravens' entire receiving corps combined for 121 receptions. Meanwhile, Mason caught a career-high 96 passes on his way to his second Pro Bowl. In fact, Mason's 191 catches over the last two years are second only to the Rams' Torry Holt (211 receptions).
But Mason doesn't have to grab 90 balls for a Ravens offense that ranked 31st in the NFL in passing last season. Seventy or 80 would be more than enough. If he's merely a consistent threat, then tight end Todd Heap will find more space to work the seams of the secondary. Running back Jamal Lewis will see fewer defenders around the line of scrimmage. And Boller will have a chance to improve dramatically, which is what the Ravens need if they want to return to the postseason.
Mason's reliability already has excited the young quarterback. "I feel like I can put the ball in certain places and trust that he'll be there," Boller said. "Last year, I would've held on to the ball too long because I wanted a guy to be as open as possible. With Derrick, I know he'll be in the right place. We just have to establish our chemistry."