When Arthur Brown was drafted in the second round by the Ravens two years ago, he arrived with considerable expectations and hype as many draft analysts had compared the undersized linebacker to legendary retired middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
It was ultimately far too much for Brown to live up to as he struggled to get on the field in his first two NFL seasons, recording just 15 tackles and 18 career games with zero tackles last season season in four games.
Now, Brown, 24, is trying to jump-start his NFL career heading into his third season. He's bulked up to roughly 242 pounds after playing his first few seasons between 227 and 232 pounds.
The former Kansas State All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is also diagnosing and reacting to plays faster. Whether that translates into more playing time remains to be seen, but Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has identified a lot of progress from Brown.
"I think A.B. has taken a big step forward," Pees said. "I think he's feeling a little more comfortable with the defense. He has always been fast; he has always been a tough guy. His problem has always been, maybe, a little bit of thinking what was going on and sometimes that would make him slow to react.
"If he knows, he's plenty fast. He's a very fast linebacker. He has taken a big step forward, as far as understanding the defense and what he has to do."
Brown remains behind Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and middle linebacker Daryl Smith on the depth chart, though. He does seem to be on the track to contribute more on special teams this year and possibly as a defensive reserve if called upon.
Brown didn't look hesitant this spring and was more instinctive. The extra weight didn't seem to slow him down at all.
"I'm getting bigger," Brown said. "I put on some weight and I'm maintaining it right now. I do feel good moving around. It's about keeping it on.
"I ate consistently, nothing outside of my regular diet, just very consistent throughout the offseason. I'm getting older. I've been putting on that grown-man weight."
At Kansas State, Brown had 201 tackles, 16.5 for losses, three sacks and three interceptions in two seasons after transferring from the University of Miami. Special teams is likely his quickest path onto the field this season.
"That's definitely one of my main roles and main focuses," Brown said. "That's how I need to make it on the field is in that phase of the game."