In his NFL debut, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown had two long touchdown catches before halftime. That breakout performance in Week 1 as a rookie announced Brown to the league as a legitimate deep threat.
He's even faster this year, after surgery to remove a screw from his surgically repaired foot in the offseason. However, through four games in 2020, Brown's deep ball connection with Lamar Jackson isn't in sync the way either player wants it to be.
"For sure, it's still a work in progress," Jackson said. "We want to be perfect on the field. We haven't been connecting on our deep passes. But we're going to get there. It's football. We've been finding other ways to succeed. We're going to get better at it."
Jackson is right when he says that he and Brown have been close to connecting for big plays. Brown got behind defensive backs against both Washington and the Kansas City Chiefs and was open for passes that Jackson overthrew. Brown has still been a productive player, making four catches for 86 yards against Washington and five catches for 101 yards in the season opener against the Cleveland Browns.
Jackson is 10th among quarterbacks with seven completions of 25 yards or more. Still, the Ravens rank 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game (180.8), just ahead of the New York Jets.
"No, I'm not happy because I would like to connect with my guys on those passes," Jackson said. "I feel like there are a lot of yards and touchdowns we've been leaving on the field when we don't connect. That's probably why our passing isn't where it's supposed to be. But I feel it's early in the season."
Brown nearly had his first touchdown of the season Sunday on a play that showed the chemistry between Jackson and Brown is still there. After Jackson scrambled to his right, he found Brown who made a few nifty moves after the catch that nearly took him into the end zone before he was ruled down just short of the goal line.
Brown was miffed he didn't score.
"I've got to get in there on that," Brown said.
For the season, Brown leads the team in targets (26), catches (16) and receiving yards (242). But the Ravens entered the season wanting to produce more long plays in the passing game, and Brown wants to see that materialize.
"Teams know about me going deep," Brown said. "When we get our chances, we've got to keep working on it and hit them when we've got the opportunities. We're still building. We hit on a couple of passes, people wouldn't even be questioning us."
Stopping Joe Mixon a Top Priority
Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow is getting plenty of attention after throwing for more than 300 yards passing in three straight games. However, he's not the only dangerous player in the Cincinnati Bengals' offense. Running back Joe Mixon ran for 151 yards and scored three touchdowns in Cincinnati's Week 4 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Mixon was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, and he's a threat to run between the tackles or bounce outside.
When Mixon takes the field Sunday, he'll be watched closely by Ravens rookie linebacker Patrick Queen, who is coming off a career-high 12-tackle performance against Washington.
"Mixon is a great back, arguably the top running back in the league right now," Queen said. "We got to come in, be physical, wrap up, drive our feet on the tackles. He can run routes as well. He's an all-around back. It's going to be a fun game. It's going to get gritty. I can't wait."
Queen Learning Not to be Tempted By 'Candy' in Pass Coverage
Each game gives Queen a chance to gain knowledge as a rookie starter learning on the fly. He had a tough game Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs, targeted by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who completed several key passes to players that Queen was defending.
However, Queen didn't let that game shake his confidence. The bounce back performance against Washington displayed Queen's talent and resiliency. His signature play occurred near the goal line, when Queen stoned Washington running back Peyton Barber who tried to leap into the end zone. Queen reached with his forearm and sent Barber flying backward as if he had run into a wall.
"I live for goal line," Queen said. "It's back against the wall, mano-a-mano. We knew he was a jumper. I timed it perfectly, got the arm in there and knocked him back."
Queen knows that quarterbacks will try to take advantage of his aggressiveness, as was the case against Mahomes. But while Mahomes is a special quarterback, Queen is a fast learner.
"Sometime my eyes get me in trouble when I see a little candy floating around," Queen said. "(I'm) just sticking to my guys and trusting the defense."
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Queen's performance against Washington showed continued growth from the first-round draft choice, particularly in pass coverage.
"Zone-coverage, I think, is probably the toughest thing for the inside 'backers as young guys," Harbaugh said. "There's a lot of matches that go on, a lot of pattern reads. There are different things you have to understand on the run. He knows that's probably the one area where he can continue to improve."
Marquise Brown Practicing Regularly While Reps Are Monitored
Brown has been a regular at practices this year, which wasn't the case last year when he was recovering from Lisfranc foot surgery. The ability to practice day-after-day should accelerate Brown's development as a receiver, but Harbaugh said the Ravens are still careful not to overwork him.
"Practicing is very important in this league," Harbaugh said. "If you don't practice it's hard to get better, let alone maintain any kind of level of execution. I think Marquise did a really good job last year of playing pretty darn well for not being able to practice.
"We still watch him and monitor him very closely. I don't think he's completely past all that yet, especially for a guy who runs so much. He's done a great job. He's so tough, he works so hard. He trains all the time to be out there. The short answer to my long answer is, he's done a good job."