Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Marlon Brown proving to be big for Ravens in red zone

OWINGS MILLS - Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn't even fully realize how tall rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown is until the early part of the regular season.
Brown started for Baltimore against the Denver Broncos in Week 1. But he worked primarily with Baltimore's second- and third-team offense for at least the first half of training camp and the preseason, and he didn't begin to get significant reps with Flacco and the first-team offense until the week leading up to the third preseason game.
"And it wasn't until the first couple weeks of the season when I was standing next to him and realized how big he is," Flacco said. "Torrey [Smith] is shorter than Jacoby [Jones], shorter than Marlon. And for some reason, I kind of view him as being taller.
"I don't know why that is. Maybe he gives that appearance of being a little big longer, but Marlon is a big person."
And for as good as Brown has been all the way around as a rookie, that size - Brown being 6-foot-4 - has been especially valuable in the red zone, where there is less room for the offense to work.
Brown has a team-high six touchdown catches. All six came on plays that started in the red zone, inside an opponents' 20-yard line.
"Joe can put the ball around him, and he can make an adjustment and go make the catch," coach John Harbaugh said.
And with tight end Dennis Pitta back now, Baltimore has two players that are at least 6-foot-4 who can split out and cause problems in that red zone area.
That showed up against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The Ravens have scored touchdowns on just 22 of their 42 possessions that have stretched into an opponents' red zone this year. That's just 52.4 percent of the time, which ranks them just 21st in the league in touchdown percentage within the red zone. But they scored touchdowns on each of their three possessions that stretched into the red zone against the Vikings.
One was a touchdown pass to tight end Ed Dickson. The other two were touchdown passes to Pitta and Brown. Brown's, a 9-yard catch, came with Baltimore trailing by four and less than 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
But Brown has been a threat for the Ravens even outside of the red zone.He entered training camp as a long shot to make the roster as an undrafted rookie still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but he made the team and has 36 catches for 412 yards and the six touchdowns in the 11 games he has played in.
He only had one catch in each of the previous three games he had played in leading up to the one against the Vikings, but no Ravens pass catcher was targeted more than him vs. Minnesota.
Flacco threw to him 11 times, and he finished with seven catches for 92 yards and the game-winning touchdown. He also had a 35-yard catch to help set up the game-winning score and drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty earlier in the quarter to set up Pitta's go-ahead touchdown.
"[His size and ability] is really valuable in the red zone. So that's probably where it shows up the most, but he's done it on some inside-type routes in the slot really well, and I also think he can be a pretty good route-runner outside," Harbaugh said. "That's a little tougher, [and] that's something that takes a little more time to develop, but he's working hard on that stuff also."