After overachieving rookie season, is Marlon Brown’s roster spot safe?
When Aaron Mellette was waived prior to the start of rookie minicamp, my first thought wasn’t of surprise or shock that the Ravens would release a seventh-round draft pick that made the 53-man roster out of training camp a season ago.
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It immediately turned to another player on the roster, someone that could be identified with Mellette, since the two had become friends during the 2013 preseason. That would be receiver Marlon Brown, who went on to tie Torrey Smith’s rookie record of seven touchdown receptions a season ago. As a result to his surprise rookie campaign, there have been plenty of Ravens fans that potentially see a bigger year out of Brown in 2014.
But what if that never materializes? Granted, Mellette has been dealing with a knee injury and failed his physical, which led to his release. Brown is perfectly healthy at this time. But reports out of training camp haven’t been favorable for the second-year receiver out of Georgia. But if the Ravens can cut ties with Mellette, a receiver who showed a great deal of promise last preseason before being placed on injured reserve, could they do so with someone like Brown?
During Wednesday’s minicamp practice, The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson noted that Brown dropped a couple of passes, one of which was intercepted by undrafted cornerback Deji Olatoye. And he hasn’t been given rave reviews at all this offseason, which you’d think would be the case. One thing to take into consideration is that Brown went back to Athens, Ga. to finish up his degree this spring, so it’s possible he’s still working off the rust of being away from the team’s facility.
That said, if he doesn’t perform at a high level, he’ll quickly enter the dreaded John Harbaugh doghouse.
And that begs the question: Should Brown’s spot on the roster be considered safe?
I’m not so sure. A fourth receiver like Brown is certainly replaceable. So let’s go down the depth chart and see what Brown has going for him and against him.
The top three receivers are Torrey Smith, Steve Smith and Jacoby Jones. That’s quite clear actually. The next four receivers are Brown, Deonte Thompson, Michael Campanaro and LaQuan Williams. Given the second group of wideouts, you’d think on the onset that Brown’s job is safe.
Out of this group, Campanaro is someone that will be kept no matter what. He’s a rookie the Ravens traded back into the 2014 draft to take, giving up a 2015 pick in the process. The Ravens don’t do that for players they don’t believe in. Plus, Eric DeCosta dangerously compared Campanaro to Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, setting up some crazy expectations based on the receiver’s build and frame. Dealing with a hamstring injury, Campanaro will most certainly be on the 53-man roster.
That leaves a maximum of two receiver spots open for Brown, Thompson and Williams. With the way Thompson’s offseason has gone, you’d think he’d have a hard time making this roster. Then again, Williams didn’t make it a year ago and couldn’t latch onto a team, indicating where he stands in NFL circles. And then there’s Brown, who had the better season than Thompson a year ago.
The verdict on this is that Brown makes the 53-man roster, but not by as much as you’d think after his 2013 season. If he doesn’t pick his play up in practice, he may make the roster, but not see much time in the receiver rotation. He is learning a new offense, one where he should excel given Gary Kubiak’s fondness for big receivers.
It’s a matter of grasping the scheme and putting in the work. If Brown continues to do so through training camp, he’ll be fine. But based on how his offseason has gone, he may have some more work to do to impress his new coordinator.
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Jason Butt is a writer and analyst for Baltimore Sports and Life. He also covers the Ravens for SB Nation as the Managing Editor of Baltimore Beatdown . Additionally, Jason is a freelancer in the D.C./Baltimore area, with published works appearing in The Washington Post, Express, CBSSports.com, The Associated Press and The Washington Times. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor of arts in journalism in 2009.