After an incredible season propelled by an explosive offense, the Baltimore Ravens were bested by Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional Round of the 2019 postseason. The Titans defense stifled the Ravens running game and forced Baltimore to pass 59 times. While the receiving group was mostly underwhelming, an impressive performance from Marquise Brown gives some hope for the Ravens’ future.
Tennessee shut down Baltimore’s run
After securing the first overall seed in Week 16 with a win against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens earned a first-round postseason bye. They faced a hot Titans team fresh off a momentous upset over the New England Patriots. The rust from the offensive starters not playing for three weeks showed and the running game stalled. With the resulting uptick in pass attempts, “Hollywood” Brown gave another glimpse of how he can change the game for Baltimore from the receiving end.
Facing a 14-3 deficit, the Ravens received the ball at their 5-yard line with 2:31 left in the first half. With a chance to cut into the lead, the Ravens slowly drove their way down the field and ultimately faced a 3rd and 14 from the Titans 42-yard line with 18 seconds till halftime. Many expected Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to make a small gain to provide kicker Justin Tucker with a more manageable field goal. Instead, Jackson uncorked a 38-yard pass to Brown, who came down with an incredible reception.
— NFL (@NFL) January 12, 2020Marqui
This would lead to a Baltimore field goal and a 14-6 halftime score. Overall, Brown had seven receptions and 126 yards, and according to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric, Hollywood earned an OSM grade of 32.49, the 6th best grade from a wide receiver in the Divisional Round. He was able to help Jackson stretch the field with some long receptions and yards after the catch.
Baltimore’s need for wide receivers
If anything, this divisional matchup with the Titans showed the Ravens need some significant upgrades to their receiver room. The tight end group is fantastic with the head honcho, Mark Andrews, leading Baltimore in both receiving yards and touchdowns during the 2019 regular season. Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle round out the group. All three are crucial for the Ravens offense in both the passing and rushing attack.
As for the starting receivers, Baltimore has a group of Brown, Willie Snead, and Seth Roberts. Brown led the three in both receiving yards and touchdowns and proved to be the only receiver the Ravens could rely on against the Titans. He gave the Ravens a deep threat with his blazing speed. He may not have run the 40-yard dash in the combine or Oklahoma’s pro day due to injury, but in 2016 he ran a 4.33 second 40 at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA.
According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Brown was targeted on average 16.4 yards down the field on each target, the highest average in the Divisional Round. Hollywood also turned four of his seven receptions into gains of at least 17 yards, his longest being the 38-yard catch above. He would also have just over double the receiving yards than the next pass-catcher for Baltimore. Despite the fact that the Ravens failed to score more than one touchdown, Brown was a vital part of the Ravens’ ability to move down the field in the passing game.
While his season totals are not the most impressive, it is worth noting that the Ravens are a run-first team, and the rushing attack is vital to the success of the offense. With 46 receptions, Brown earned 584 yards and averaged 12.7 yards per catch. All the signs point to the Ravens needing to surround Jackson with more receiver talent while also getting Hollywood more help to ease the burden.
Brown’s Future Impact
Brown could be a critical element to the future success of the Ravens offense. He was the number one WR for the Ravens offense during the 2019 season. Although Andrews was the top pass catcher and Jackson’s go-to target, this rookie receiver made quite the statement during his first campaign providing an immediate impact for the Baltimore Ravens offense.
The Titans provided a plan of how to beat Baltimore’s offense, and the Ravens are going to have to find a way to change up the pattern next season. The team has $33.8 million in cap space heading into the 2020 season. There are some free-agent options for the Ravens to ponder, such as attempting to sign an in-division receiver, A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals, or take a chance on a younger wide-out with some potential like New York Jets WR Robby Anderson. The latter would not be as appealing to Baltimore as he would give them the same type of playmaking as Brown. Green could be a possible free agency target to provide the Ravens offense a big-bodied receiver depending on the price.
Baltimore’s 2020 NFL Draft needs
Free Agency is great, but as far as receivers go, Baltimore should look towards the draft. The 2020 NFL Draft is loaded with wide receiver talent. With the current status of the team and their need to tie up some loose ends with current free agents, the Ravens could take a receiver early on Day 2 to give Hollywood a better pairing. Two receivers that come to mind are Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Laviska Shenault Jr. from Colorado, big physical wide receivers that can give the Ravens another type of weapon in the passing game. However, if Baltimore is going to go for Shenault, his stock has risen and would possibly need to be a late first-rounder to secure him in the draft.
With talent oozing at the WR position, the Ravens can also afford to wait later until rounds 3 and 4 to snag their guy. In any case, Baltimore is in a stable position right now, with cornerstone players all over the team it seems the Ravens are set up for the long haul. With a slight tune-up and some additions in the offseason, Jackson and company should be back to thriving.
The addition of Hollywood seems to be paying off so far, and it’s still very early. With the development of more chemistry between him and Jackson, more time to become acquainted with the offense, and the possibility of adding another playmaker in the WR room, Brown’s future is looking bright, to say the least.