Closer look at Ravens WR, Marlon Brown
The Ravens received devastating news this week when they found out that two guys from their already depleted receiving group will miss playing some playing time. Michael Campanaro is done for the year as he was placed on injured reserved (back) and Joe Flacco’s early security blanket, Steve Smith, is week to week with broken ribs. Could be two weeks, could be longer without him.
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Baltimore made a trade to bring in Chris Givens from St. Louis, but I wouldn’t expect him to step right in and be a factor. I would think he’ll need to learn the playbook, the verbiage, the signals, He could be a returner in Campanaro’s spot, but not an every down receiver.
The every down duties now fall to Kamar Aiken, and the man I’m going to focus on in this piece, Marlon Brown. Third season with the Ravens, undrafted out of the University of Georgia. Seven touchdowns in his rookie year to lead the team. But hasn’t been able to be a consistent playmaker since.
We are going to see a lot more of him, so let’s see what he has done this season.
Let’s take a look at the good, starting in week 1 against Denver. Its 2nd and 11. Brown is matched up one on one with Aquib Talib. Brown is 6’5”, and Talib is 6’1”. The receivers on the left are running short routes, so with the single high safety coverage, Brown and Flacco know that the safety will float towards Brown’s side. Flacco needs to make this throw quick before the safety can get over there, making it a double team.
As noted in the first clip, the Broncos are sending a six man blitz. Another reason Flacco has to get the ball out quick, which he does. Three step drop, and the ball is out. Nice clean pocket for him to step into which was a rarity on this day.
Talib is running step for step with Brown, as he does with just about any receiver. Talib is one of the best. This is the point where the ball is in the air and Brown finds it. This isn’t a hitch or curl route, but Brown hits the brakes here.
Brown then high points the football. If he runs a few more steps in route, Talib will break this pass up. When he hits the brakes, it gives him a cushion and the catch is made uncontested. Flacco also does a good job here on a few things. This isn’t a lob pass, a jump ball. This isn’t thrown in a spot where Brown has to run under it and catch it over his shoulder. Like I said, a ball thrown like that would have been broken up, or picked off. Joe Flacco placed this ball in spot where he would have had to rely on Brown to make the adjustment to catch the ball, which he did, or the ball falls incomplete. He makes Talib a non-factor here. It’s something like that that won’t show up in box scores.
I believe that is a little something called chemistry. It’s good to have that because Brown has been catching balls from Flacco longer than any other receiver on the team.
That was a good one from Brown. Here is a not so good one from the Raiders game. It’s 3rd and 5. Brown is lined up where tight end might be. Now, I will start by saying that this isn’t all Brown’s fault. For one, I don’t like the play design. The two receivers above Brown are clearing out that right side. So I would rather so the play go to that area, away from the safety help over the middle. But, Brown is going to run the shallow post over the middle and safety stays deep in the endzone. Flacco doesn’t know until the snap if Neiko Thorpe, covering Brown, will blitz or stick with his receiver. He doesn’t blitz, but it’s a five man rush.
Flacco does something here that has stuck out like a sore thumb all year. Throwing off his back foot. When you do, the ball sails high. This pocket isn’t as clean as the example above, but he’s got room to step into it and make a good throw. Furthermore, Brown isn’t even the best option on this play. Flacco glances down field and sees Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken covered, but then doesn’t continue the progression after he looks to Brown. He has Gillmore right in his sight line with a step on his man, and a mismatch against a linebacker. He could roll out to his left to give Brown more time to separate, and if not, look at all that room Buck Allen has to run on the check down.
The ball sails high, Brown badly mistimes his leap. While he has a four inch size advantage over Thorpe, this ball needs to be thrown in stride, with some zip. Give Brown a chance to run after the catch with room in front of him. But the back foot throw goes high.
You can see how bad the jump was as Brown is landing on his feet as Thorpe is able to get a hand in there to break the pass up. Again, put this ball where Brown can catch it without Thorpe being all over him. Although, a better jump and Brown comes down with the ball.
Marlon Brown’s strengths:
Size – You can’t teach someone to be 6’5”, and defensive backs can’t play in high heels. He gives Joe Flacco a big target to hit.
Chemistry – Been with Joe Flacco longer than any other receiver on the team (excluding Dennis Pitta).
Mid-range route running – Get him one on one in the intermediate passing zone and he can win. At least he has shown the ability to be able to.
Marlon Brown’s weaknesses:
Contact – He comes up small when contact is coming. He showed alligator arms on a crossing route in the Cincinnati game. He also dropped a ball when the defender was bearing down on him last week. He also won’t slip through tacklers like Steve Smith has been doing. Once he’s hit, that’s the end of the play.
Short range route running – He isn’t crisp in this department. It shows why in the last two years, with the switch to the west coast system, Brown has regressed. He isn’t good at getting separation and racking up yards after catch on short passes. The timing isn’t right between him and Flacco on these routes. There have been two or three occasions where Flacco just misses an easy pitch and catch with him because the timing isn’t right on Brown’s part.
Speed – He won’t out run the defense, nor take the top off the defense like burners do. You don’t send Brown on 40 yard bombs multiple times a game.
Consistency – As you can see, Brown shows up good at times and bad at times.
Marc Trestman has been heralded for his ability to adjust. Whether it’s adjust in game, in season, over the course of seasons depending on the players and the teams he’s tasked with managing. Will he adjust and play to Marlon Brown’s strengths now that he will be featured more? Will we see him try to scheme plays designed to get Brown into favorable matchups? Will he draw up more intermediate throws for him?
I think you have to. But as you can see, Joe Flacco has to do his part too. He has to put the ball in places where Brown can get it. He can’t lob it up and expect Brown to win a physical battle for it like Anquan Boldin used to.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]