Lack of WR depth gives Keenan Reynolds best shot at making Ravens

Former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, college football's all-time leader in total touchdowns, has an opportunity at receiver for the Ravens. Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Among the first words Keenan Reynolds heard at a recent Baltimore Ravens minicamp came from special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

"Timing is everything, huh Keenan?" Rosburg said.

Rosburg was referring to the Department of Defense's decision to rescind a policy that gave permission to military service academy athletes to play professionally immediately after graduation. That allowed Reynolds, a star at Navy, the opportunity to join the Ravens last year.

But, when looking at the bigger picture, the timing is perfect for Reynolds to make the Ravens' season-opening roster. The college quarterback-turned NFL wide receiver won't get a better shot than now, considering he's competing for a spot at the team's weakest position.

After Steve Smith Sr. retired and Kamar Aiken signed with the Colts in free agency, the Ravens are left with just two receivers who produced more than 10 receptions last season. The other 10 receivers on the roster that Reynolds will compete against -- Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Chris Matthews, Vince Mayle, Kenny Bell, Quincy Adeboyejo, C.J. Board, Tim Patrick, Tim White and Aaron Bailey -- have combined for 65 catches.

"The opportunity is there," Reynolds said. "I just have to do my part and take care of my business and just keep working every day. The one thing I learned last year is you can't just rely on the summer and OTAs and minicamp. You have to continue to stack the training camps, the preseason games, all of that to roll into the season in order to have a shot at being on the [53-man roster]."

Reynolds was one of the most decorated players in Navy history as a triple-option quarterback, finishing as the FBS all-time leader in total touchdowns and winning more games than any other quarterback in school history. The Ravens were elated to draft him in the sixth round of the 2016 draft with the intention of switching him to a wide receiver and returner.

But Reynolds struggled in training camp and the preseason, when he caught one pass for 2 yards in four games. His biggest problem was getting separation on routes.

He spent most of the regular season on the practice squad before getting promoted to the 53-man roster in the final week. He never suited up for a game because he was inactive for the preseason finale.

"For Keenan, it's a new position," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's obviously worked hard the last three months on his own, to kind of train himself how to play receiver. I know he's made some trips and traveled and worked at it. He's doing a good job."

Reynolds can also earn a spot on the team as a returner, which is just as wide open as wide receiver. He is battling against Campanaro and some undrafted rookies.

But he can help his cause by showing development as a receiver. He believes last year, when he was essentially redshirted, was critical in his growth.

"It was big. Learning the playbook, knowing where to line up, that was three-quarters of the battle last year," Reynolds said. "Having experience going against the starters all year on the practice squad, learning from [Smith], Mike [Wallace], all those guys, just trying to improve my game."