Ravens mulling over receiver options

Demetrius Williams made progress in his battle for third receiver position...

OWINGS MILLS -- In the latest installment of the Baltimore Ravens' third wide receiver auction, rookie Demetrius Williams saved one of the most impressive bids for the end of the preseason.

The fourth-round draft pick from Oregon emerged with another eye-catching performance as the Ravens concluded the preseason with a 17-10 victory over the Washington Redskins.

Battling with veterans Devard Darling and Clarence Moore for the job, Williams delivered an exclamation point to his month-long audition.

He transformed a four-yard pass into a 29-yard touchdown catch, bursting past the Redskins' secondary to finish with three receptions for 55 yards. His night would have been even more noteworthy if his 77-yard touchdown catch hadn't been negated by a holding penalty downfield on tight end Bobby Blizzard.

"I think our biggest thing was that we really didn't make it a battle against each other, and it was more about the whole receiving corps getting good together," Williams said. "We're shooting to be the best one in the league.

"I just think we're all trying to get better and we push each other so that the best man is on the field. There's still a lot of things I need to work on with film and I'll go over it, but I'm feeling really good right now." 

The identity of who's the best man has varied throughout the preseason.

Darling, who caught a 35-yard pass from quarterback Steve McNair against Washington to set up a touchdown, registered five receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.

A former third-round draft pick, Darling enters this season with only two catches in two NFL seasons that were marred by chronic injuries to his heel, ankle and thigh.

Now, he's getting a renewed lease in the lineup and started against the Redskins while Derrick Mason was held out with a bruised knee as a precautionary measure.

"I'm not surprised," Darling said. "I know I can do it and I know the Lord has blessed me with all the talents I need to be a very good receiver in this league. It was just a matter of staying healthy and staying mentally focused. 

"Truthfully with all of the injuries, I've learned a whole lot and grown spiritually from it, so it's just my time. I'm just showing these coaches that they can count on me and trust me."
Plus, Moore garnered two receptions for 60 yards in a 30-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He was open on a 40-yard route that was overthrown by Kyle Boller against the Redskins.

"Those players are making it very tough for us to decide the spot," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's a good thing. We know which ones will make the team, but deciding who will make the 45-man roster is still up in the air."

Although each candidate is intent on being voted into the position by the coaching staff, it's a welcome dilemma in McNair's book.

"That's only going to make us better at that position," McNair said. "When one guy goes down, another guy has to step up. You've got some guys out there that can make some big-time plays, and that's what it's going to take throughout the course of the year."

One position that isn't unclear, though, is punter where rookie Sam Koch has clearly outperformed veteran Leo Araguz.

The sixth-round draft pick from Nebraska averaged 45.1 yards on 16 punts compared to Araguz' output of a 37.7 average on 16 punts. Besides his hang-time, Koch also proved to be capable on kickoffs.

"I thought I did really well," Koch said. "It comes down to someone else's decision and hopefully I put some trust in their minds."

Against the Redskins, Koch averaged 52.2 yards on four punts while Araguz averaged 34 yards on three punts.

"He's consistently shown a lot," Billick said of Koch, who also kicked off three times without incident at FedEx Field. "The ability to do both is a big asset."

Koch and his family want to make their residence in Westminster, where they're currently renting a house, a permanent one.

"We'll probably keep on renting for now," Koch said. "But there's always the possibility of buying a home if everything goes right. I'm very optimistic."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times.

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