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NFL Baltimore Ravens

Marlon Brown Gives Baltimore Ravens Size At Wide Receiver

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

When the Baltimore Ravens took on the Carolina Panthers Thursday night, wide receiver Marlon Brown was looking to further propel himself into the starting rotation.

With four catches, 59 yards and a touchdown, the former Georgia Bulldog may have done just that.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has to be pleased with a guy like Brown, so far. After all, even he can’t coach a player to be 6-foot-5.

The 22 year old was given an opportunity earlier in the offseason to try out for the Houston Texans during their rookie camp. However, his nagging knee injury lingered throughout his development, and limited what the undrafted free agent could showcase.

Tearing his ACL in November, Brown wasn’t able to participate in any NFL Combine drills, limiting the exposure he could give scouts as to just how talented he really is. As the Ravens have completed their third preseason contest, No. 14 has emerged as a guy who could not only make the final 53-man roster Aug. 31, but a potential top three target for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

It is no secret that Baltimore is hurting for pass-catchers at both the wide receiver and tight end positions. The potpourri of talent that has been brought in includes names like former Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Dallas Clark and former New England Patriots tight end Visnathe Shiancoe, who was cut by the Ravens Sunday.

So you have a lot of confidence in those guys, right?

Wrong.

Enter young guns like Brown, seventh-round selection Aaron Mellette, 2011 fourth-round pick Tandon Doss and former Maryland Terrapins wide receiver LaQuan Williams.

While Doss and Williams have garnered first-team reps in the past, their small sample size and inconsistent outputs this preseason have paved the way for rookies like Mellette and Brown to take over.

Mellette caught two touchdowns against backups in the first two preseason games, but didn’t stand out significantly like Brown did when given first-team reps against the Panthers. Plus, Mellette, like Brown, doesn’t possess game-changing speed, and his questionable character issues have caused Harbaugh to kick the Elon University product out of practice once this training camp.

Even though it was just one game, Brown displayed the ability to get open, run most of the routes in the route tree, catch the football, and already appears to have established more chemistry and rapport with Flacco.

Given the lack of size for the Ravens at his position, it has to be a definitive advantage Brown has over his competition.

The Ravens will focus their offensive attack more on the ground game this season for a multitude of reasons: Trading away the No. 1 wide receiver in 2012, Anquan Boldin, to the San Francisco 49ers for a sixth-round pick, losing tight end Dennis Pitta for the season with a dislocated hip, tight end Ed Dickson’s uncertain health status and bringing back bone-crushing fullback Vonta Leach.

Despite all of these reasons, Flacco will still look to air it out on what likely will be a “60-40″ run-pass ratio in 2013. The Ravens haven’t really ever had a guy they could look to in the red zone as a guy who could snag a jump ball from defensive backs. With his size and hands, Brown could be that target.

The final preseason game Thursday night against the St. Louis Rams will be a serious evaluation of just how high Brown’s ceiling is as an NFL receiver. Even though he will most likely be playing with a plethora of backups, and against reserve players as well, if he shines once again, expect Marlon to take the next step and, potentially catch passes from Flacco Sept. 5 as the  Ravens open their season in Denver against the Broncos.