“You don’t replace Anquan” Boldin.
Those are the words of Tandon Doss, the man who is expected to be one of the leading combatants in the offseason royal rumble to replace the veteran receiver who was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in March.
In fact, the Ravens selected Doss in the fourth round of the 2011 draft -- two rounds after fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith -- with an eye toward this very moment, when the Ravens would be moving on without Boldin.
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The story goes that in the months leading up to the 2011 draft, quarterback Joe Flacco scribbled his name on a list of the wide receivers he would like the Ravens to draft. The Ravens obliged and selected Doss, who was one of the most productive wide receivers in Indiana University football history.
Two years, seven catches and one touchdown later, Doss is trying to catch the biggest break of his young career. With Boldin gone, the Ravens need another receiver to plug into their three-wide sets and potentially their starting lineup, depending on how they feel about Jacoby Jones playing every down. That player will need to get open out of the slot and make tough catches over the middle.
That’s what Boldin did in the Super Bowl run, muscling his way to a postseason-leading 22 catches for 380 yards and four scores.
“Like no other receiver I have seen in my entire life, he brought it in the running game, passing game, no matter what," he said. "He went 110 every play and obviously he made unbelievable catches throughout the year that got us to the spot that we wanted at the end of it, the Super Bowl. I try to mirror everything he does.”
Doss doesn’t have to do his best Boldin impersonation to produce, but he believes he will be the guy the Ravens drafted him to be.
“I won’t be satisfied until I’m started and doing what I want to do, scoring touchdowns every game and helping the team get wins,” Doss said Wednesday. “I won’t be satisfied until that happens.”
Slot receivers come in different shapes and sizes with varying skill sets. Boldin is burly and physical. Denver’s Wes Welker is shifty and intelligent. Tavon Austin, the former Dunbar star who was just drafted eighth overall by St. Louis, is explosive and elusive.
So what will Doss, listed at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, provide?
“It depends on what the coaches want, honestly, whether they want a speedy guy or a stronger guy,” Doss said. “I can do it all. But so can some of the other young players, so it’s going to be a battle.”
Doss caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown last season. He caught just 38.9 percent of the passes thrown his way and dropped two, according to Pro Football Focus. But the Ravens put him in position to make plays down the stretch and at points during the postseason, a sign of confidence in the 23-year-old.
David Reed and 2013 seventh-rounder Aaron Mellette are also in the mix for snaps behind Smith and Jones.
“Nobody is going to outwork me while I’m out here, though,” Doss said Wednesday, sweat pouring off him after a high-tempo organized team activity workout in the hot sun in Owings Mills. “I’m going to leave it at that.”
You can’t take much away from these OTAs, but Doss did make a nice diving grab in front of safety Michael Huff.
There is always a chance that the Ravens could sign a veteran receiver sometime this summer, but it appears that they want to give as many reps as possible this spring to Doss and the other receivers. Flacco said he likes the idea of the team sticking with the receivers whom they have drafted in recent years and seeing how their development goes. He said he would like to see them exude the same kind of self-confidence that Boldin did.
“One of the biggest things about Anquan was that he knew he was the man,” Flacco said. “You don’t realize how much that helps out your play and your team’s play. And when these young guys can get to the point where there attitude is that, they have all the ability in the world and I feel very confident with those guys.”
Doss is a confident kid off the field, for sure, and while he acknowledges that no one can replace the unique skill set that Boldin brought to the offense from 2010 to 2012, he believes the Ravens will be OK without him.
“We have a great group of young receivers. Torrey is a speed guy. Jacoby is a speed guy. I’m able to play on both the inside and outside,” Doss said. “We’ve got a great group and we’re going to be all right.”