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Preston: Injury concerns with rookie receivers could ground Ravens’ passing game

Preston: Injury concerns with rookie receivers could ground Ravens’ passing game
Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown arrives to work out before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Baltimore. (Nick Wass/AP)

The Ravens’ third preseason game is Thursday night against the Eagles in Philadelphia, and the improved passing game team officials promised during the offseason has yet to materialize.

Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson and tight ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst have made progress from a year ago, but the two rookie receivers the Ravens drafted have had little impact.

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Miles Boykin, taken in the third round out of Notre Dame, has potential. He has made some great plays in training camp and has that long, lean body and excellent speed. He can make the proper adjustments on passes and attacks the ball in flight instead of waiting for it to come into his body.

But Boykin is hurt a lot. He missed all of the offseason minicamps with a hamstring injury. Even though he hasn’t missed a lot of practice time in training camp, it seems as if he is always visiting the training room, even on days when he practices. If he is missing time now, what is it going to be like when he has to play full time and take hits during the regular season?

Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin catches a pass during a joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019.
Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin catches a pass during a joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. (Matt Rourke/AP)

The Ravens have been careful with Marquise Brown. Notice I didn’t call him by his nickname, “Hollywood”. I’ll use that when he finally plays a game. Until then, he is just Marquise Brown. Some days Brown practices, and then there are days when he is on the sideline in sweats.

The youngster really is super fast, but when are fans going to see him in a game? Any game?

We all know Brown is recovering from a Lisfranc (foot) injury, which he suffered last season at Oklahoma, but his on- and off-the-field practice schedule is disappointing. He was supposed to be a major part of the Ravens offense this season. He could play in the slot or on the outside. He could run reverses or take a pitch on options from Jackson. He was supposed to be able to turn quick hitches and screens into big plays.

We haven’t seen any of that yet. I hate to bring up receiver Breshad Perriman, the Ravens’ failed 2015 first-round pick, but it’s starting to feel similar.

No one knows if Brown will play much against the Eagles except for coach John Harbaugh. There is no reason to keep it a secret. It’s not as if Brown can be used as a decoy or teams have to game plan for him because he has yet to play in a game.

The Ravens need Boykin and Brown to play this season. They bring speed to a team that severely lacked it a season ago. Without them, the Ravens might have the worst bunch of receivers in the NFL. With them, the team still lacks experience but has speed and talent.

But right now, there is doubt whether both can stay healthy for an entire NFL season.

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