Lamar Jackson has a dangerous new weapon the Patriots need to stop


It's tough enough to game plan for the magic of Lamar Jackson, who can find a way to slip away on even the best-covered plays, and his trusted tight end Mark Andrews.

Now, the Ravens actually have a wide receiver the Patriots need to worry about: second-year receiver Rashod Bateman.

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The 2021 first-round pick has swiftly emerged as a possible breakout candidate this season, racking 167 receiving yards on just six catches in the early going. His 75-yard explosion against the Dolphins last week served as an announcement to the rest of the league as he beat All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard in man coverage and took a slant to the house.

Though in small sample size, Bateman ranks 11th in receiving yards overall and sixth in yards per route run according to Pro Football Focus. Plus, only Tyreek Hill has more yards against man coverage than Bateman does so far, via The 33rd Team.

The Patriots don't quite play as much man coverage as they have in the past -- no New England defensive back has played more than half their snaps in man as yet, according to PFF -- and probably won't be as inclined to do so the way Jackson has shredded blitzes through two games. But Bateman's 4.39 speed and big-play ability probably mean he'll draw Jonathan Jones in coverage when those situations do arise.

If New England resorts to more two-safety looks, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher's big-play threat will draw entice safety help and open things up for Andrews and rookie tight end Isaiah Likely up the seams.

To this point, the Patriots have generally done a good job of limiting big plays from opposing offenses, with Jaylen Waddle's 42-yard touchdown in Week 1 the exception for a team that ranks fourth in yards allowed.

The Ravens will undoubtedly put that to the test with Jackson, Andrews and now Bateman to deal with.