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Crabtree on leading Ravens: 'I don't have a choice'

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Michael Crabtree finds himself with some new surroundings.

The Texas native is as far east as he's been in his career, he's with his third team in the past five seasons, and he might even be trying crabcakes for the first time. Most importantly, Crabtree, who was once drafted to be a No. 1 wideout but has spent less than half of his career as one, suddenly has to occupy that role again in Baltimore.

He's the runaway leader in experience for a Ravens receiving corps that has cycled a veteran or two in and out of the room for the last half decade. Names like Lee Evans, Steve Smith and, most recently, Jeremy Maclin come to mind when considering this trend. Unlike in his other situations, Crabtree will also have to become a leader because he simply doesn't have an alternative.

"I don't have a choice," Crabtree said after Thursday's practice. "I'm going on 10 [years] in the game, and all these guys are three-, four-, first-year guys. That's just my role. At the same time, I'm out there competing like I'm 21, so I'm going to have fun with it."

Having fun with it is a good approach for a team that has lacked a solid receiving corps since Anquan Boldin last suited up in purple and black. The tone -- "I don't have a choice" -- might not be the best, but the point is true. The next-closest receiver in experience is slot man John Brown, who has just four years under his belt and is also new to the Ravens.

There's hope in the depth of this group, as long as it can find its way. Along with Crabtree and Brown, the corps also includes new arrivals Willie Snead and DeVier Posey, as well as draft selections Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, and returning target Breshad Perriman. At least two of those aforementioned players pose deep threats, and could combine to create Joe Flacco's deepest receiving corps since Baltimore's last Super Bowl run.

That's also at least somewhat dependent upon Crabtree's production. A year after posting his second 1,000-yard receiving season, the wideout dropped to just 618 yards as Oakland experienced a unit-wide regression in 2017. Perhaps his greatest value in both production and tutelage is his nose for the end zone, demonstrated by his stable touchdown numbers: nine in 2015, eight in 2016 and eight in 2017.

General manager Ozzie Newsome took the spaghetti approach, throwing a number of new receivers at the wall. Crabtree's impact, whether it's via on-field production or off-field direction, figures to impact who sticks.

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