Re­ceiver shows po­ten­tial to have big­ger role if he stays healthy this sea­son

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - Mike Preston

The trans­for­ma­tion pe­riod from rookie to solid NFL player takes about three to five years, but po­ten­tial great­ness is clearly ev­i­dent in Year 2. That’s why there is so much op­ti­mism about Ravens re­ceiver Mar­quise “Hol­ly­wood” Brown in 2020.

A first-round pick out of Ok­la­homa in 2019, Brown fin­ished his first sea­son with 46 re­cep­tions for 584 yards and seven touch­downs, ty­ing the team record for most touch­downs by a rookie.

And Brown did it de­spite play­ing with a foot in­jury he suf­fered in his se­nior sea­son with the Soon­ers. Truth be told, Brown prob­a­bly played at about 75% to 85% last year.

But ear­lier this off­sea­son, Brown had a screw removed from his foot, prob­a­bly the last ma­jor step to­ward a full re­cov­ery. By all ac­counts he is big­ger, faster and stronger than a year ago, which is why he has pro­duced more pro­mo­tional ad­ver­tise­ments than both 2020 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, Don­ald Trump and Joe Bi­den.

Now, you un­der­stand the ex­cite­ment. If Brown put up those num­bers in­jured last sea­son, imag­ine what will hap­pen when he is healthy.

It is still a fan­tasy but at least the Ravens like what they see so far with the reg­u­lar

sea­son only sev­eral months away.

Brown started 11 of 14 games last sea­son, but he didn’t look like the old Sooner from his days in Ok­la­homa. That kid could jab step and break the an­kles of any line­backer on an end around. He could run af­ter a short catch, make a jump cut at full speed and turn a 10-yard pass into a 50-yard touch­down. In his fi­nal sea­son, Brown had 75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touch­downs

But he barely prac­ticed in the Ravens train­ing camp as a rookie.

The Ravens tried to work him into game plans dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son but that’s hard to do when it’s mid­week and his health sta­tus is ques­tion­able for the up­com­ing game. There were times when it looked as if Brown would tackle him­self af­ter a catch or head to the side­lines more than for­mer Pitts­burgh Steel­ers run­ning back Franco Har­ris af­ter a run in the 1970s.

Yet, there was that two-touch­down per­for­mance against Mi­ami, one an 83yard re­cep­tion where Brown ran away from every Dol­phin and even some TV cam­eras. He had that one-handed 38-yard re­cep­tion against the Ten­nessee Ti­tans in the Di­vi­sional play­off game.

If only he were healthy…

Well, he has to be healthy now or he’ll get sued for false ad­ver­tis­ing. Brown is all over the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia. There is video of him run­ning, go­ing in and out of cuts at full ac­cel­er­a­tion. There is footage of him run­ning routes and work­ing out with Ravens quar­ter­back La­mar Jack­son and his cousin, The Hum­ble One, re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown.

And then there is the weightlift­ing clip where Mar­quise Brown would have you be­lieve he is as ripped as Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger in his prime.

We all know bet­ter, but we get the pic­ture. The 5-foot-9 and 170-pound Brown is ready to flex his muscle both on and off the field.

The Ravens coach­ing staff is ec­static. Brown fits into the strength of Jack­son, who is more ac­cu­rate on short and in­ter­me­di­ate passes. With no in­jury, Brown should be able to run more quick slants, hitches, cross­ing routes, reverses, and bub­ble and jet screens from the slot po­si­tion.

Be­cause of the added bulk, the Ravens can put him on the out­side as well, which they couldn’t do last year be­cause Brown might strug­gle against phys­i­cal cor­ner­backs such as the Ravens’ Mar­lon Humphrey and Mar­cus Peters.

The good thing is that Brown is a re­ceiver and not a line­man, which usu­ally re­quires ex­ten­sive time in the weight room and added bulk. But with the great ones, they just seem to turn it up an­other level in Year 2.

We’ve seen that in Bal­ti­more. In his sec­ond sea­son, left of­fen­sive tackle Jonathan Og­den had moved from guard and was on his way to be­com­ing the best ever at his po­si­tion. With a year in the weight room, Ray Lewis col­lected 220 tack­les in Year 2 as op­posed to 142 as a rookie.

Both Ter­rell Suggs and Peter Boul­ware were be­com­ing more-com­plete out­side lineback­ers in their sopho­more sea­sons and safety Ed Reed added six tack­les, in­ter­cepted two more passes and led the team with 19 knocked-down passes in Year 2.

And then there is Jack­son. He made significan­t strides as a passer, run­ner and team leader in 2019 com­pared to his rookie sea­son in 2018.

The ver­dict is out on Jack­son and whether he can be­come a great player, but Brown had sim­i­lar suc­cess as a rookie. Is he next in line?

There is a lot of op­ti­mism.

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