MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. — About midway through the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown caught his first pass on a slant and ran 47 yards for a touchdown.
“I was just like, ‘Oh, yeah, first catch, I was pretty hyped,” said Brown, the Ravens’ top draft pick out of Oklahoma in April.
About four minutes later, Brown caught his second pass and then outran the defense for an 83-yard touchdown. It was an impressive start: two catches, two touchdowns.
“And then the second one came on the next play,” Brown said. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool.' "
Brown finished with four catches for 147 yards in the Ravens’ season-opening 59-10 win. The performance allowed the Ravens’ front office and coaching staff to breathe a sigh of relief.
A Lisfranc foot injury suffered last season while playing at Oklahoma forced Brown to miss all of the team’s minicamps during the offseason and the Ravens to be selective with his practice time leading up to Sunday’s game.
As late as last week, Brown was being held out of a practice as a precautionary measure.
But on Sunday, he caused all kinds of problems for Miami and finally showed why the Ravens were willing to gamble with him with a first-round pick. Maybe some of the whispers about him being another Breshad Perriman, a recently failed receiver drafted in the first round by the Ravens several years ago, will start to die.
“That is why we picked him,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “The ability to make big plays is huge.”
It was the missing ingredient in the Ravens offense a year ago. The Ravens lacked speed and playmakers, and they might have gotten both in a 5-9, 170-pound package nicknamed “Hollywood."
On the 47-yard reception, Brown got inside position on safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and left him behind at the Miami 30-yard line. On the 83-yarder, he left Fitzpatrick behind again on a perfectly thrown ball by Jackson that hit the speedster in stride.
“Yeah, I ran — the defender was standing flat-footed, so I knew he was going to try and grab me,” Brown said of the long touchdown. “Lamar did a great job of buying time, and he threw a great ball.”
“It felt good,” Brown said of the receptions. “Everything I’ve been through this offseason, just to be out there and be able to make plays and help the team win, it felt pretty good.”
Speed is something that can’t be taught. A player either has it or he doesn’t. On offense, a fast player can have a big impact. After Brown made his first two catches, the Dolphins started backing off him at the line of scrimmage because they were afraid of giving up big plays.
That allowed Brown to run short routes like hitches and quick outs. It also opened up certain areas of the field for tight ends Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst, who combined for 11 catches, 149 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, the Dolphins couldn’t crowd the line of scrimmage, which allowed for more lanes in the running game, a main staple of the offense.
The Ravens rushed for 265 yards on 46 carries.
“It gave us a boost,” Jackson said of Brown’s speed. “It opened up running lanes for our running backs. Mark Ingram did a great job today. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill did a great job today. It just opened up our run attack and gave chances for all of the receivers to get open.”
The belief was that Jackson and Brown might form a standout combination, but it would take time, especially after the two missed so much together. But on Sunday, they worked their magic.
“I’ve been waiting since OTAs,” said Jackson. “I didn’t have him in OTAs. I got him towards the end of camp. We didn’t really have chemistry. There were some plays he [the coach] didn’t like because we weren’t completing them. But today, I guess he liked the plays. We scored on them. He’s fast. I just can’t wait to see more. We’ve got to move on to Arizona now.”
The game was a one-game redemption for both Brown and Jackson. Jackson completed 17 of 20 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Brown has noticed a lot of the criticism Jackson has received since joining the Ravens.
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"I watched him a few times last year, but I watched him in college, and I thought he was pretty good,” Brown said of Jackson. “I was happy when I got drafted here, and since I’ve been here, he has been nothing but good.
“Yeah, you hear the talk, and I knew just from when I got here, I was like, ‘I don’t know what people have been talking about. He looks pretty good to me.’ So I’m glad he got here and he showed what we could do."
Brown is probably going to struggle some more with his foot injury. He has sought advice from cornerback Jimmy Smith, who suffered the same injury years ago, and it took him more than a year to recover.
But Brown doesn’t seem too concerned, especially if he continues to play the way he did Sunday.
“You know, I just played through it. Each week, it’s improving,” Brown said. “And each week, it’s going to get better. I’ve got guys like Jimmy [Smith], who’s been through the same injury, so it’s easy for me to deal with it.”