Orlando Brown Jr. got the call up to the big leagues when he was drafted by the Ravens in April.
He got another big test during Ravens minicamp, as Brown manned the right tackle spot with the first-team offense throughout the three days of practice.
It’s not typical for a rookie to be immediately thrust in with the starters – especially a third-round pick. But the gargantuan Oklahoma product isn’t your average rookie.
“Running with the first team is great, and obviously being in that huddle is a blessing,” Brown said. “But I’m here to work, and I have a lot of work to do to be where I want to be.”
Brown is primarily competing for the Ravens’ starting position with fifth-year veteran James Hurst. Hurst, who started 16 games at left guard last season, has bounced between right tackle and both guard spots so far this offseason.
The Ravens know what they have in Hurst, who they re-signed to a four-year deal this offseason. He’s a dependable starter and position flexible. Brown, however, is more a work in progress with a high ceiling and a lot of room to grow.
The 6-foot-8 blocker has had a lot on his plate, including improving his strength and conditioning, switching from left tackle to right and learning the offense.
Brown said he’s made a “really big jump” in terms of his strength and conditioning this offseason, which was a focus after he posted subpar numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s worked hard and hasn’t missed any time yet this summer despite challenging fast-paced practices.
On the field, he’s been getting a lot of instruction from Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris and had a long chat with veteran Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda during one minicamp practice.
“I’ve enjoyed it, coming in here and going to work every day,” Brown said. “Obviously with all the vets in my room – James and Ronnie [Stanley] and Marshal – I’ve had a ton of great men that I’ve been able to learn from on the field. Coach D has helped me a lot.”
Moving to right tackle has had a learning curve. Brown won the Sooners’ starting left tackle job after his redshirt freshman year and anchored it for the next three years.
Brown worked out at right tackle during the pre-draft process because he knew NFL teams may want him to make the switch, but doing it in training and practice against the likes of Terrell Suggs are two different things.
“It’s been really weird, honestly,” Brown said. “When we started rookie minicamp, it just wasn’t as comfortable as it is for me now. Now that I’m over there, I think my kick-step and timing is getting to where it was on the left side. I’m enjoying it.”
Despite playing in the powerhouse Big 12 conference, Brown’s main takeaway so far is that NFL talent is on a different level and will require him to adjust his technique.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned probably is that at this level the length of guys is different,” he said. “I haven’t always played against long guys with long arms and tremendous first steps.
“The timing is a little different, obviously with the way they can get their hands on me. My footwork has to be a little different in how I cover space against guys like that. It’s really timing. They can touch me earlier and have great body lean. It’s just different.”