If Ravens reach third down, Clayton among first options

On third downs, Mark Clayton is slowly becoming a primary option for the Ravens.

The wide receiver, considered the Ravens’ biggest threat to break away after a catch, is developing into another weapon for quarterback Steve McNair when the team needs first-down yardage.

In the Ravens’ 15-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Clayton caught eight passes for 74 yards. Of his six receptions that went for first downs, four occurred on third down.

“Coming into the year, my mind-set was to do whatever it took to help this team win,” said Clayton, whose eight first downs rank third on the team behind wide receiver Derrick Mason (12) and running back Jamal Lewis (11). “If that’s making a play on third down, then I’ll make the play on third down. That was the situation, and that’s what needed to be done, and it was done. Overall, we just expect to make plays on third down. That’s just how it is.”

Sunday’s performance was indicative of what the Ravens’ coaching staff had envisioned from Clayton when the team drafted him in the first round in 2005. Clayton set franchise rookie records last season for catches (44) and receiving yards (471). He also had two touchdown catches.

Clayton has no touchdowns this season, but the second-year wide-out from Oklahoma is third on the team in receptions (11) and second in yardage (122), and his eight receptions against Cleveland on Sunday were a career high.

Coach Brian Billick acknowledged an emphasis on getting the ball to Clayton.

“When you can get the ball in Mark’s hands, he’s going to make something happen,” Billick said. “We made the point last week after the Oakland game [when Clayton had just one 30-yard catch] that we needed to get the ball into Mark’s hands a little bit more.”

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