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Mailbag: What's Going on With 'Hollywood' Brown?

WR Marquise Brown
WR Marquise Brown

Mink: It is worth noting that Head Coach John Harbaugh said in mid-October that the Ravens still "monitor [Brown] very closely" in practice. "I don't think he's completely past all of that yet, especially for a guy who runs so much when you have a foot [injury]," Harbaugh said.

With that said, I don't think Brown's foot is a big issue or at the heart of his struggles over the past four games, in which he's caught just six passes for 55 yards and one touchdown.

Brown hasn't gotten separation deep often enough. Part of that, I suspect, is because cornerbacks aren't worried about much other than the vertical route. Brown hasn't hurt teams enough with underneath/sideline/comeback routes, and he hasn't picked up many yards after the catch despite his speed. Thus, the game-plan is to just keep him in front.

When Brown has gotten separation deep, Lamar Jackson has missed him. The two could have linked up for a touchdown against the Titans but Jackson was too late pulling the trigger and underthrew his target. It's a two-way street; receivers need to get open and Jackson needs to cash in when they do. While both sides are more than capable, that hasn't lined up very often this season.

Lastly, I think Brown may be pressing a little right now. There's no doubt that expectations were sky high for him entering the season, in part because of his own eye-popping social media workout videos. With stats that haven't matched, it's surely frustrating. Seeing him drop an easy catch against the Titans was very uncharacteristic. But Brown is a confident, tough and talented young player. Wide receivers can go cold from time to time. I'm confident he'll continue to improve his all-around game and break out. With his speed, it could come on just one play and at any time.

Downing: The Ravens and Lamar Jackson clearly went into the last two games committed to taking some shots downfield. The problem is that those shots haven't amounted to much. In reality, they've hurt the Ravens the last two games. Jackson had a deep pass intercepted in each of the last two games – a pass to Brown down the sidelines just before halftime against New England, and a 50-50 ball to Devin Duvernay against Tennessee – and those turnovers proved costly in both losses.

Yes, it's important for the Ravens to stretch the field and keep defenses from crowding the box to stuff the run game and clog passing lanes. The deep passing game is a clear way to do that. But it's also critical to pick the right spots for those deep passes. I'm not a proponent of taking deep shots just to keep the defense honest. The Ravens need to use the deep passing game to keep defenses off-guard when they start creeping up to defend the run. But Jackson also can't force those throws, and his receivers need to do a better job of at least preventing a turnover when he gives them a chance to go make a big play.

Mink: We'll have to wait till Thursday night to get an answer on this, and it will be quite interesting. Phillips beat out Ben Powers and veteran D.J. Fluker for the right guard spot out of training camp. The rookie had his ups and downs at the start of the season but was certainly solid enough to continue to hold the starting job. The Ravens would like to find some cohesion on the offensive line at some point, so they could put Phillips back in at right guard and hope the unit can grow together over the final six games. However, it's a short week of practice before the Steelers game and the Ravens were happy with how Powers played against the Titans. This could go either way.

Downing: Define "healthy enough." There's no question that the Ravens are banged up, and the hits have only gotten worse this week with multiple players added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Ravens will be without key players on both sides of the ball this week, but that certainly won't garner them any sympathy when they take the field against the Steelers. The Ravens will be healthy enough to play the game, as long as the COVID outbreak among players and staff gets under control, but they'll have to operate without some of their best players. This will likely be a critical week for members of the practice squad, as the Ravens could activate several players given all the players on the COVID list. It's not an ideal situation by any means for Baltimore, but the Ravens will still be healthy enough to play Thursday's game if the positive COVID tests stop.

Mink: I'm not thinking about 2019 when I answer this question because I'm tired of putting this season into that frame. It's done. It's not useful. In fact, it's only painful and makes us more jaded about this year's team. With that off my chest, yes, I do think 11-5 is realistic. That would mean the Ravens would have to win five of their final six games.

The Ravens are playing better football than I think fans are giving them credit for, in part because we're all still stuck in 2019. Yes, that year (for many reasons) was a lot more fun. But Baltimore only got soundly beaten once this season, by the Chiefs. The Ravens could have – or some would even say should have – come out on the winning side in all three of the recent losses.

The Ravens are going to get healthier from COVID-19 and otherwise. Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell will be back in the lineup sooner than later, which will make a huge (literally) difference. The other component is the Ravens' opponents. After the Steelers, Baltimore's final five foes (Cowboys, Browns, Jaguars, Giants, Bengals) have a combined record of 16-33-1. The Browns, who the Ravens routed in Week 1, are the only team with more than three wins. Win all those games and the Ravens are at 11-5. Win in Pittsburgh, and Baltimore can even drop one of the final five and still finish at 11-5.

Downing: Now we're getting to the good questions. This is an easy one for me – pumpkin pie. All day. I actually added a little twist this year and got a caramel pumpkin pie from the local pie shop in my neighborhood (shoutout Pie Time!), so I can't wait to dig into that on Thanksgiving.

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