In the off-season, Ozzie Newsome promised to change the personnel in the Baltimore Ravens’ locker room. With three new wide receivers acquired through free agency and another two in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ozzie and the front office made their moves and followed through. But the first addition to the roster has gone relatively unnoticed. John Brown is a dynamic threat in any offense, but with Joe Flacco, he can change how the team plays.
Baltimore’s thrived off fielding one speed-target and a single possession receiver for years. It looks to be the same once more, but I’d argue John Brown is more explosive than the ‘speedster’ they always have streaking across the sidelines. John isn’t just a fast guy with agility, he’s an agile player with speed. He moves fluidly, cuts hard and the moves are accompanied with 4.34 speed. He makes safeties change their angle of attack and also causes them to second guess due to his cutback ability. He creates separation in the open field, lined up one-on-one and even in the red-zone.
The playbook will look and feel the same, at least in the beginning, but the trio of Crabtree, Brown and Willie Snead spins this roster from the cliche duo of speed and strength Baltimore always fields into a unit of receivers all capable of breaking off a chunk of yardage against a defense.
Crabtree looks to fill the role of Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith. He’s going to make tough catches and pair against the toughest corners week after week. He’ll win some, he’ll lose some and that’s the way the game goes. But Brown will be the catalyst for more, I believe. He’s capable of middle-of-the-field catches in the soft parts of zone coverage. His drag routes and slants can gash for yardage. On any given play he’s also capable of receiving a deep pass down the field from Joe, forcing corners to give that extra step of cushion they don’t normally provide.
I’m convinced Brown’s capability on the field is similar to Mike Wallace’s in the years prior. Mike didn’t just run nine-routes on every play, he utilized a full route tree and when Jeremy Maclin vanished, did his part in moving the chains. But with Maclin out and Crabtree in, the offense won’t circulate through an on-again-off-again receiver, it will run through the many connections Joe has now on the field.
While Joe has many targets now, I suspect the one most capable of turning the Ravens into a passing offense will be Brown. He’s a strong route-runner with good hands and great speed. He’s an incredible compliment to Crabtree, but a greater target for Joe than previous number two’s. With the new trio of receivers, new tight ends and Alex Collins, fans may witness Joe Flacco surpass his single-season passing yardage total of 4,317 in 2018.