On Sunday, Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said rookie first-round speedster Marquise “Hollywood” Brown “hit another gear.” On Monday, Brown took another step forward as he played against a different NFL team for the first time on Day 1 of Ravens-Eagles joint practice.
But while the arrow certainly is pointed up, it’s clear that the rookie speedster still has much work to do before he can be the top target the Ravens envision.
“He basically practiced for the first time in a more aggressive setting. I saw a guy that was practicing for the first time,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
“It’s all new for him – the speed of it, the thinking, the lining up, running the right route. He has a ways to go with all that. I’m confident he’ll get there, and we’ll know how to use him early in the season, but it’s good work for him.”
It’s hard for any rookie to break into the NFL, let alone at a difficult position such as wide receiver. Add on months of missed practice and the task is even tougher.
Baltimore’s other receivers have been practicing since OTAs began in May. That’s a long time to get comfortable within the offense, gain chemistry with Lamar Jackson and the other quarterbacks, etc.
While Brown has been in every meeting and talked about the benefit of mental reps, there is no substitute for doing it in live action, and it becomes even more challenging when facing another team.
Still, as Harbaugh said, the Ravens will use Brown’s dynamic speed early this season as long as he’s physically able to contribute. As he practices more and gets game reps, he’ll continue to get more comfortable and expand his role.
On Monday, Brown caught a slant from Jackson during 11-on-11 work, and he doesn’t need much daylight to break a big play.
Earl Thomas, Ravens Defense Hoping to Face Carson Wentz
The Ravens defense pitched a shutout against the Jaguars in the first preseason game, then allowed just 226 yards of offense versus the Packers in the second preseason game. Neither time, however, did the Ravens face the other team’s starting quarterback.
The reshuffled Ravens defense – the NFL’s reigning No. 1 unit – is looking for a strong preseason test. Bad news is it’s unclear whether the Ravens will see Eagles starter Carson Wentz in Thursday’s game.
Eagles backup Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken wrist, then early in last week’s preseason game, Cody Kessler left with a concussion. Eagles fifth-round rookie Clayton Thorson played the rest of the game.
Philadelphia signed veteran Josh McCown out of retirement over the weekend, which leaves the Eagles with two backup quarterbacks again, and means Wentz doesn’t have to suit up. It seems Philadelphia doesn’t want to take chances with Wentz given his injury history.
The Ravens, however, are hoping to see Wentz’s No. 11 jersey on the field Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a last-minute scratch last week, leaving Baltimore’s defenders bummed.
“It would be great to face live bullets,” safety Earl Thomas said. “We can unleash the dogs up front and see how he reacts to that. And then if we make mistakes it’s only going to make us better.
“Carson Wentz is not a pushover. It’s good to go against him, it’s good to go against the offense, the tight end is pretty good, the receivers are really good. It’s a great challenge for us.”
The Ravens will at least get two days of practice against Wentz and his talented weapons. Baltimore matched up well for the most part on Day 1, but Thomas did have one deep ball from Wentz to Alshon Jeffrey get completed behind him for about a 50-yard gain.
“They got a deep ball on me – which I hate, that kind of ruins my whole practice – on the post,” Thomas said. “But quarterbacks throw interceptions, too, so I have to forget about it and come out here tomorrow and try to get one.”
Thomas: M&T Bank Stadium Entrance Was ‘Pretty Emotional’
Last Thursday’s game against the Packers was Thomas’ first game since Sept. 30, 2018, when he broke his leg. Since then, he’s changed teams and switched coasts.
So when Thomas was introduced at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time, it was “pretty emotional.” Thomas was the last player out of the tunnel. He sprinted out and slid on his knees with his arms spread wide, soaking in a loud ovation.
“I felt the energy. I felt good. I felt hyped,” Thomas said. “But it wasn’t no violin emotion like that.”
Thomas only made one tackle in the game and didn’t stay very long, but it was a welcomed sight to see him prowling around the back end of the defense.
“It definitely felt special,” Thomas said. “The game felt slow; it felt just how I left it. I’m just very, very grateful to be back out there."