Ravens see 'dangerous' Year 2 for Hollywood Brown

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown found his way into the NFL record books, sped past defensive backs and proved to be the team’s best weapon in its passing game in the playoffs.

The most impressive part: Brown provided only a glimpse of what he could do.

Team officials acknowledged their top deep threat hadn’t fully healed from his foot surgery from a year ago and his contributions were missing in several games. The expectation is Brown will become faster and more impactful in his second season, which can boost the weakest area in Lamar Jackson's game.

"Even though he was hurt with his foot, he still felt like he should be Julio (Jones) already,” Jackson said at the Pro Bowl. "I told him, 'Bro, you're good. Your foot not already 100 and you're making plays.' This year, he's going to be dangerous.”

Brown showed flashes of being a dangerous playmaker on the outside, tying a Ravens rookie record with seven touchdown catches this season and posting the fifth-fastest average maximum speed by an NFL wide receiver. In the 28-12 playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, Brown totaled 126 yards receiving on seven catches, including a spectacular one-handed grab for 38 yards.

It was uncertain how much he would contribute in his first season after he had surgery in January 2019 to repair a fracture in the middle of his foot. That caused him to fall to the No. 25 overall pick in the draft and forced him to miss all of the offseason spring workouts as well as all of the team drills in the first two weeks of training camp.

Brown, however, made a splash in his NFL debut, becoming the first player in league history with multiple 40-yard touchdowns in his first career game. He finished with 46 catches for 584 yards receiving, the eighth-most by a rookie this season.

With Brown not fully recovered from foot surgery, Baltimore monitored his workload in practices throughout the season. Sam Rosengarten, the team’s coaching analyst for performance, watched Brown every day and would ask wide receivers coach David Culley the same question toward the end of every practice: How many more reps for Brown?

If Culley responded with five more snaps, Rosengarten would sometimes tell him that Brown can only go for three of them.

"It’s been managed very, very well for him," Culley said.

Baltimore returns every starter from the season's highest-scoring offense, but one area due for an upgrade is at wide receiver. There were times when the targets on the outside were a nonfactor.

A healthier Brown should also add punch to a wide receiver group that combined for 115 receptions, the fewest in the league. The Ravens made Brown the first wide receiver drafted last season because of his ability to stretch the field. If defenses are going to stack the line to take away Baltimore’s dominant running game, the Ravens need to go over the top of them.

Brown was the fastest target for Jackson last season with three catches where he reached 20 miles per hour (all the other Ravens had one such catch this year), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. His average maximum speed on receptions was 15.3 mph, which tied for fifth-best in the NFL.

Where the Ravens need Brown to take that next step is consistency, especially when it comes to beating defenses downfield. Jackson was one of the least productive deep-ball passers in the league. He completed 17 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air last season, which ranked 22nd in the NFL.

But, if Brown is more explosive in 2020, Jackson’s 36.2 completion rate on those deep passes should improve.

“Marquise was really not 100 percent most of the year, and that was pretty obvious, right?,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a huge piece of what we’re doing and fits this offense so well."