The partnership between the two wide receivers the Ravens hope will come to represent a new era began months ago, when neither could’ve known the other would end up in Baltimore, much less both of them.
After declaring early for the NFL draft, Oklahoma’s Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin trained together in Florida ahead of the NFL scouting combine. The Ravens, needing an instant-impact receiver, took Brown with the No. 25 overall pick last month, then added Boykin a day later in the third round.
Within minutes of Boykin’s selection, Brown tweeted him two purple-faced smiling emoji with horns, as if the two former workout partners were back up to no good. Not long after, Boykin replied, "Be ready.”
“Those two guys are different, but they bring speed, they bring playmaking,” coach John Harbaugh said after the Ravens took Boykin last weekend at No. 93 overall.
Both were in their Ravens jerseys Saturday for the second of two rookie minicamp practices at the team’s facility, but only one had worked up a sweat.
Brown has been sidelined since January while recovering from a Lisfranc injury. The foot issue kept him from participating in drills at the combine and the Sooners’ Pro Day, but he’s resumed running and is expected to be fully healthy for the start of training camp this summer. He said Saturday that this is the longest he’s gone without football.
“It’s tough,” he said. “But at the same time, I have fun taking those mental reps, because I kind of have an advantage getting back and being able to watch.”
Ravens officials know what they’re getting with Brown, a 5-foot-9, 166-pound speedster who finished with over 1,000 receiving yards in both of his seasons at Oklahoma. So do his new teammates.
Fourth-round pick Justice Hill, a running back who starred for Big 12 Conference rival Oklahoma State, remembers seeing Brown "in the end zone a lot" during a rollicking 62-52 Sooners win in 2017. Hill finished with 228 yards rushing and two touchdowns in that game, but Brown outdid him. He finished with 265 yards receiving — on just nine catches.
“He’s just a playmaker, man,” Hill said Saturday. “Whenever the ball is in the air, and the ball is in his hands, he can make a play, no matter if it’s a screen play or a go ball. No matter what it is, he’s going to make a play, so it’s going to be fun to be on the same field with him.”
Saturday was another learning day for Boykin, who heard pointer after pointer from new wide receivers coach David Culley, but he flashed his potential. Quarterback Lamar Jackson needs a reliable outside wide receiver, and rookies Trace McSorley and Jalan McClendon, a tryout player from Baylor, often found the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boykin for catches against physically overmatched defensive backs.
He joked Friday that his hands were “terrible” over his first two years at Notre Dame because he’d broken a few catching passes. When they finally healed, people would come up to him and remark, “Wow, you got good at catching.” Perhaps most encouraging: He said he still works on his catching ability “every day.” As with most things in the NFL, receptions come harder at the next level.
“You step out there, and you’re like, ‘Whoa,’ ” he said. “And then you kind of ease into it, and you start playing and playing and playing, and eventually you’re at that level. The only thing I’d say about the NFL is, you have to learn a lot quicker than you did in college, which is normal, because you’re going another step up, and this is the best of the best. Really, [it’s about] just getting out there and taking as many reps as I can.”
Off the field, Brown and Boykin roomed together during rookie minicamp, passing time by quizzing each other on the playbook. Boykin said it was “awesome” to be “hand-picked” as a players the Ravens want in their offense for Jackson. He called Brown a “game-breaker”; Brown returned the favor Saturday, saying of Boykin: “He attacks the ball as good as anybody I saw.”
They didn’t expect to be reunited in Baltimore. Now they’re just counting down the days until they’re both back on the field.
Said Boykin: “I think that we can definitely put some dynamic plays together between the two of us.”
Said Brown: “You guys will have to wait and see. I envision we’d be very explosive.”
» Defensive tackle Gerald Willis, an All-American at Miami who's the most high profile of the team's undrafted free agents, limped off the field midway through practice and did not return. He tweeted afterward, "I'm Good no need to worry."
» Joe Horn Jr., the son of the four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver and a tryout player in Baltimore, “looked really good,” Harbaugh said. At Division II Missouri Western last season, he had 15 catches for 246 yards and no touchdowns. “I guess the thing that struck me about him was, he looked like Joe Horn,” Harbaugh said. “Joe Horn looked like Joe Horn.” At 5 feet 10, 185 pounds, though, the younger Horn is noticeably smaller.
» Defensive tackle Willie Henry is “100 percent healthy,” Harbaugh said. The former fourth-round pick sat out the first month of the 2018 season while recovering from surgery to address an umbilical hernia, then was placed on injured reserve in late October with a herniated disk. “He’s in the weight room getting really strong,” Harbaugh said. “His weight is probably under what it should be, he’s in such good shape. So, yes, he’s doing really well, and I expect big things.”
» McSorley, a sixth-round pick, signed a four-year contract, the team announced. Only Brown, Boykin and outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson remain unsigned.
» Recently retired defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who played nine seasons for the Ravens, was in attendance Saturday.
» This is the 12th straight rookie minicamp in which the Ravens have played with game jerseys, a team spokesman said.