As they tried to chip away at a two-score deficit against the Buffalo Bills last weekend, the Ravens used a number of combinations at the wide receiver position. Perhaps the most promising trio featured rookie Marlon Brown lined up in the slot with speedsters Torrey Smith and Deonte Thompson on the outside.
Their time on the field together was short-lived, though, as Thompson left the game with a concussion after making a 33-yard reception on the sideline. Still, with Thompson back in the mix and starting wide receiver Jacoby Jones closer to returning, we could see more of Brown in the slot in the coming weeks.
That would be cool with Brown, who says he likes working the middle as a slot receiver “a lot actually.”
“I’ve just got a big body so I can go across the middle easily,” Brown said Thursday. “I’m faster than most of the inside linebackers and safeties that might be guarding me, so I feel like I’ve got an advantage there.”
So far this season, Brown has run 34 routes from the slot, according to Pro Football Focus. He has been targeted five times on those plays, catching three of them for 37 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came in Week 1 when he ran a corner route out of the left slot and made a 13-yard catch for his first touchdown in the NFL.
His season average of 1.09 yards per route run out of the slot is better than teammates Brandon Stokley (0.97) and Tandon Doss (0.83), according to Pro Football Focus.
Playing in the slot is nothing new for Brown, who at 6 foot 5 wouldn't be your typical slot receiver. At Georgia, he played both inside and outside, ran a variety of routes and learned how to read different coverages at different positions, according to Tony Ball, Georgia’s wide receivers coach. He also learned how to block by playing in the slot.
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell acknowledged that we could see Brown -- who hasn’t practiced this week due to a hamstring injury but is optimistic about suiting up this weekend -- in the slot more often once Jones and Thompson are healthy enough to return to the field.
“He’s one of those guys who learns quickly,” Caldwell said. “He has a real fine football mind. We can put him in a number of different locations, which is a good thing. Also, he has the size and is versatile and can give you a pretty big presence on the inside. Not only that, but on the outside, on the flanks, he certainly does a nice job as well.”
Brown, who has 14 catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns, knows that his ability to play at different spots will come in handy when Caldwell is divvying up the snaps.
“I feel like me learning the slot and the outside, I can just play more,” the undrafted rookie said.