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Why it’s okay if Hollywood Brown is not ready to practice at the start of training camp

Patience is a virtue

June 23, 2019 - 2:57 pm
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By Jake McDonnell

When the Ravens drafted Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown 25th overall in the spring, they knew that they were taking a player who has big play potential. The Ravens have long lacked game-changing skill position players. Now, they hope that Brown can develop into that missing piece.

Additionally when the Ravens selected Brown, they did so with the understanding that a Lisfranc injury suffered in the Sooners 39-27 Big 12 Championship game win over Texas on Dec. 1 could delay the rookie’s on-field debut. And that’s certainly been the case. With training camp set to begin in just over a month on July 25, Brown has yet to participate in a single team drill. He did some side work on his own during minicamp and Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices, but he has yet to run at full speed since undergoing foot surgery in January.

Following the selection of Brown, the expectation was that he would be ready for training camp. But then Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said that Brown “conseratively speaking” should be ready for camp. Due to the history the Ravens have with Lisfranc injuries, that was probably a smart thing to say. Then on June 14, the last day of mandatory minicamp, head coach John Harbaugh expressed his expectation for Brown to be ready for training camp, but followed that up by saying it’s too early to be certain of Brown’s status. Harbaugh used the term “hopeful” to describe the team’s mindset when it comes to Brown being on the field in late July.

It appears that the chances of Brown practicing full-speed on July 25 aren’t nearly as promising as they were a few weeks ago. Hypothetically speaking, if Brown begins training camp on the Physically Unable To Perform (PUP) list, it’s not the end of the world.

The previous sentence is not one Ravens fans will like hearing. It was only four years ago that the Ravens drafted Central Florida receiver Breshad Perriman only for him to miss his rookie season due to knee injuries. Perriman partially tore his right PCL in a July practice and then re-aggravated the injury in late September while running during pregame warm-ups.

Whether Perriman or the Ravens felt the most urgency for him to contribute sooner rather than later does not matter. This time around, the Ravens need to make sure their rookie receiver is 100% ready to play and play well before clearing him for contact.

The biggest reason why it’s okay for the Ravens and their fans to be patient with Brown, even if he misses the early weeks of the regular season, is because the 2019 Ravens offense will revolve heavily around the run. The Ravens will certainly use Brown as a decoy or ball-carrier in the run game, but the majority of his production will come out of the passing game.

Will Brown’s pending absence take out some play calls and prevent the Ravens from stretching the field until he returns? Absolutely. But realistically speaking, in Lamar Jackson’s first full season as a starting quarterback where large amounts of time will be spent on his throwing, how much can we expect the Ravens to stretch the field in 2019, especially early in the season?

A crowded receiver room will also negate the desperation to get Brown on the field as soon as possible. The Ravens have recently struggled getting through seasons without signing receivers off the street or plucking guys off the practice squad. Weeks away from training camp, early indications are that the Ravens may have to let go of a few players who are talented enough to make another team’s 53-man squad. Cornerback, running back, offensive line, pass rusher, and safety are some of the areas on the team who could face this problem. Wide receiver is another.

As of now, the Ravens only have four receivers on their roster - Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Seth Roberts, Michael Floyd - that have caught a pass in an NFL regular season game. None of those guys has ever made a Pro Bowl. Michael Floyd’s 1,041-yardage total in Arizona from the 2013 season marks the only time in 19 combined seasons that any of these wideouts eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards. That’s extremely underwhelming, and until Brown or some of the mid-to-late round draft picks - Miles Boykin, Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott - show us what they can do in practice or in games, the Ravens won’t know if they have a #1 receiver on the team.

Even without knowing who these receivers are and what their ceiling is, the Ravens have a crowded assortment of young pass-catchers who will be fighting for roster spots. That list does not even include some of the undrafted names who popped up this spring, including Joe Horn Jr. and Antoine Wesley. Plus, who’s to say that tight ends and running backs can’t be considered some of the best receiving weapons the Ravens have? Several local reporters gushed over how tight ends like Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst, along with running backs like Mark Ingram and Justice Hill looked during minicamp. Factoring in Jackson’s playstyle and what the Ravens will do on offense this year, don’t be shocked if the top pass-catchers aren’t all wide receivers.

Like with other things Baltimore Sports fans are worried about right now, patience is key. I get it, it’s frustrating thinking about the Ravens going through part of the season or the whole season without their first-round rookie wide receiver. The projections for what Hollywood Brown can and will do this season for the Ravens are not yet known. They can’t afford to rush him back from an injury like this, and even when he returns it will definitely take him some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.

Bottom line: This will likely be a developmental year for several offensive players, most notably Jackson. It does not matter if Brown is back on the field on July 25 or week 6, Jackson’s passing won’t be a finished product. The on-field chemistry between Jackson and Brown will suffer early on, but they have years under their rookie contracts to develop a repertoire. It might not happen as soon as you would like it to, but Brown will be an instrumental part of the Ravens offense in due time.