He’s not ready yet, but he’s getting closer. The Baltimore Ravens selected wide receiver Marquise Brown in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the first player at his position off the board, knowing that he would need time to come back from a foot injury.
He’s not yet working with the team on the field at training camp a few days in—he has yet to be medically cleared—but he did take one important step forward toward that goal in passing his conditioning test. The Ravens have one of the most arduous conditioning tests in the league, so his being able to pass it indicates that he is in good shape.
Baltimore taking a wide receiver in the first round has been a rarity, to be sure, and the last time they did it didn’t work out particularly well with Breshad Perriman in 2015, but they are hopeful that Brown will serve as an appropriate complement to their previous first-round pick, quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The coaching staff envisions the rookie wide receiver as being the vertical threat that keeps opposing defenses from stacking the box against the run, which they intend to exploit this season with Mark Ingram, one of their key free agent additions, and second-year running back Gus Edwards, who emerged in the second half of the season.
That occurred at the same time that Jackson entered the starting lineup, replacing the then-injured Joe Flacco, who was traded to the Denver Broncos this offseason. Edwards even started the season on the practice squad after going undrafted, but figures to have cemented his role for this year.
Jackson and his dynamic ability to run the football is a core part of the Ravens’ offense, and in the running game in particular. History also shows that having a running threat at the quarterback position makes the running game more efficient, since defenders have to stay home, kept honest by the possibility of multiple options for ballcarriers.
Even the most dynamic running game has to present the threat of a passing attack as well, however, which is part of the reason that the Ravens used two of their top three picks in the draft at the wide receiver position. They also drafted a pair of tight ends with pass-catching ability early in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Truth be told, watching Baltimore’s offense and how it runs will be interesting this year. They could be an excellent and scary unit, and whether or not they can live up to that potential largely hinges upon whether or not Jackson can develop as a traditional passer as defenses adjust to his presence.