Miles Boykin needed a break after an exhausting rookie season. Now Boykin is looking to break out.
The Ravens have high expectations for their 6-foot-4, 220-pound wide receiver as he prepares for his second year. Boykin caught 13 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns in 2019, and he excelled as a blocking receiver in Baltimore's record-setting rushing attack.
General Manager Eric DeCosta made it clear before the draft that he expects Boykin to make a jump in 2020 as a target for Lamar Jackson opposite Marquise "Hollywood" Brown.
"Very, very excited about Miles," DeCosta said. "He made some big plays for us throughout the course of the year. We expect him to improve quite a bit with an offseason. He's a big, strong, fast and physical guy. Great attitude. The second year for most receivers is critical and we think he'll make a big jump."
Hearing talk like that has fueled Boykin even more. He took a vacation to Puerto Rico after the season and rested his body for a month. Now Boykin is training again and determined to make the improvement DeCosta envisions.
"Absolutely, just being a dominant more polished wide receiver," Boykin said on Facebook Live. "Obviously, last year was my rookie year and I was blessed to be part of a team that went 14-2 during the regular season, made it to the playoffs, fell a little bit short. That experience is going to be good for me in the long run. I think I'm ready to break out this year and I'm just excited to see what the year holds for us. I'm going to do whatever it takes to help this team win."
The Ravens are still expected to be a run-heavy team in 2020, so a breakout year for Boykin cannot simply be measured by his statistics. In addition to a deep wide receiver corps also featuring Brown and Willie Snead IV, the Ravens drafted two wide receivers - Devin Duvernay of Texas (third round) and James Proche of SMU (sixth round). Meanwhile, Jackson also loves throwing to Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews and tight end Nick Boyle, and his running backs.
However, the Ravens chose Boykin in the third round in 2019 out of Notre Dame with the belief he would develop into a consistent pass-catching target. He has excellent hands and is learning the nuances of running more polished routes and making greater use of his size and deceptive speed. One of Boykin's biggest plays came against the Seattle Seahawks when he got behind the defense to catch a long pass from Jackson for a 50-yard gain.
Former Detroit Lions Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson was an idol of Boykin's growing up, and he wants to emulate the way Johnson used his body and strength to ward off defenders.
"He's really one of the reasons why I fell in love with the receiver position," Boykin said. "Being a receiver that big, that fast, that strong is something I kind of envy. That's what I want to be. That's who I kind of who I model my game after."
Boykin has spent the offseason strengthening his legs, which should improve his balance and ability to break tackles. Before his first NFL season, Boykin didn't expect the grind to fatigue him as much as it did.
"I had never played 16 weeks before in college," Boykin said. "My legs got a little bit tired at the end of the season. (I'm) building up my leg endurance, really just being quicker on the field. Having the leg strength to be able to do that is a huge part of it.
"I took a month (after the season) of just not doing anything. That was the advice from the strength coaches. I didn't believe them at first. I took off a month and I still had some nicks and bruises. I definitely never felt anything like that. College season is over, you take a week off, you feel brand new again. It's definitely a different monster."
Boykin loves the camaraderie among Baltimore's wide receivers and the chemistry they are building with Jackson. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has plenty of weapons to work with and Boykin says there will be no problem with players accepting roles.
"We build off each other, we feed off each other's energy," Boykin said. "I think it's awesome to be able to go out there and play with those guys. They're great teammates. Nobody in that room is selfish. They just make it a blast playing football."
It will be even more fun if the Ravens win the Super Bowl. Boykin is thinking more about team goals than personal goals, but his familiarity with the offense puts him far ahead of last year and he is excited about what 2020 will bring.
"The only goal I have is the Super Bowl," Boykin said. "I've always been the type of person that if you reach your team goals, usually your individual goals will follow. I think we have the team to do it. I'm super excited to see where this team goes."