Chykie Brown came into this season with a different mindset.
The second-year cornerback decided in the offseason after talking with his coaches that he needed to make more of a commitment to his play on special teams, which he saw as his opportunity to carve out a role on the team. The work is paying off, as Brown is becoming one of the Ravens' best special teamers.
"I didn't take special teams as seriously as I should last year. This year, I see how big it is," Brown said. "I said that I wanted to come into this season with my head on straight, focused, ready to play, ready to just become a professional football player."
Brown has six special teams tackles on the season, which is tied with 2011 Pro Bowler Corey Graham for the team lead.
Brown has played in every game this season and is on the units for kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt, punt return, and field-goal block. He has flashed on the coverage units at times this season, including on Sunday in Houston when he made a big hit on Texans return man Keshawn Martin on the free kick return in the first quarter. Martin was heading to the sidelines for a potentially big gain before Brown brought him to the ground.
Against the Cowboys, Brown stuffed punt returner Dwayne Harris for a gain of no yards, making the solo tackle in the open field. In the Week 5 matchup against Kansas City, Brown was the gunner on punt coverage and he raced down the field stuff return-man Javier Arenas for just a one-yard gain.
With those stops over the last three weeks, Brown is showing that he has a knack for the football and plays like that are becoming the norm.
Brown is part of the reason the Ravens are seeing an improved performance from their special teams units overall, which was a priority coming into the season. The Ravens ranked 31st in the NFL in kick return average allowed last season, but they now rank ninth in the league.
"I see that's the only way I'm going to get on the field," Brown said. "If I do good on special teams, I'll probably get a chance on defense, so I have to make the best of it."
Special teams is nothing new to Brown. He thrived on special teams early in his college career at Texas as the special teams player of the year during his freshman season.
His performance on the coverage units opened the door for him to get playing time on defense at Texas, and he's hoping to follow that same path with the Ravens.
Opportunities for defensive playing time could be on the rise after the season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear to starting cornerback Lardarius Webb. Brown is currently the fourth cornerback option behind Cary Williams, Jimmy Smith and Graham, but he's hoping that his stellar performance on special teams gets him more looks on defense.
"My next step is to get on defense, get some real playing time on defense," Brown said. "Hopefully, make it to the Pro Bowl, special teams, defense, whatever way it comes."