BALTIMORE -- Rashod Bateman waited a long time to make his debut for the Baltimore Ravens, much longer than Lamar Jackson or John Harbaugh anticipated. The 2021 first-round pick was expected to be an immediate weapon in the Baltimore passing game, although a groin injury stalled those plans.
The Ravens were patient as Bateman underwent surgery to repair the injury, knowing their faith would be rewarded in the end. Jackson caught a glimpse of what Bateman provides for the Ravens offense in his NFL debut Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, as the rookie wideout hauled in four catches for 29 yards in the victory.
A reliable target for the majority of the afternoon, all four of Bateman's catches went for first downs. Three of those grabs led to Ravens touchdowns -- 14 points which transformed a win into a rout.
"He made some key first-down catches," Harbaugh said after the win. "I liked that he caught it, put it away and got straight up field. It's a simple thing, but in the NFL, it's not an easy thing to learn, and he did a great job of that."
Bateman's day was far from perfect, as both of Jackson's interceptions came off passes targeted for the rookie wideout. The first interception was an ill-advised throw by Jackson that came one play after a DeShon Elliott interception which gave the Chargers the momentum back in what was eventually a Baltimore blowout. Even in a 17-0 game, that's a throw Jackson knew he wanted to have back as he wanted his rookie receiver to make a play.
"I didn't even see the linebacker [Chargers linebacker Kyzir White]. I didn't see him," Jackson said with a big smile on his face. "If I had seen him, you know I wasn't throwing that. I threw it right to him. It was a great pass to him.
"I'm like, 'Dang!' But it happens, it happens."
That was the first pass attempt Jackson threw to Bateman in his career, but the chemistry clearly showed between the two throughout the game. Jackson went in Bateman's direction to move the chains on his next three targets, and Bateman delivered. Midway through the fourth quarter and the game out of hand, Jackson found Bateman open on a throw that would resulted in an easy first down -- but the rookie couldn't come up with the reception and the ball landed in the hands of White (his second interception of the day).
"That's the one he'll probably learn the most from," Harbaugh said.
The Ravens need a possession receiver to counter Brown's speed and deep-ball ability. Bateman showed in his debut he has the ability to be that guy going forward. Another reliable weapon in the passing game just makes Jackson and this passing offense even more dangerous as they gear toward a Super Bowl run.
Bateman will play a major role in how far this team goes in 2021.
"He looked pretty good for his first game back – his first NFL game," Jackson said. "He was making tough catches, getting north, getting up field. He did great."