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Learning year for Jordan Lasley could prepare him for larger role in 2019

After the 22-year old missed out on being activated in 2018, his learning experience could lead him to greater heights in 2019.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Minicamp Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

John Brown is a free agent. Michael Crabtree has been released by the Ravens. With their departures, an opportunity has risen for 2018 fifth-round pick Jordan Lasley.

During training camp with Baltimore, Lasley burst onto the scene — showing off his smooth route-running and being able to make the explosive plays that he was known for in college at UCLA. He also meshed extremely well with fellow rookie Lamar Jackson throughout camp.

While Lasley would make the 53-man roster after camp broke, he wouldn’t be active for the entire season. That entire first season in street clothes and usage as a scout team wideout gave Lasley clarity on what it means to be a player in the NFL.

“Any given Sunday man,” Lasley said of his rookie season. “You gotta go out there and prepare properly every single day because anybody could lose at any day in this league. It’s a lot of great players in this league and everyone is out there trying to feed their family. So, you gotta go out there and be just as ready as they are or even more.”

“Be prepared, come with a great mindset and attitude, be ready to win and that’s what I took from this season.”

Lasley, 22, showed flashes from his time at UCLA — finishing off his college career with a 69-catch, 1,264-yard season with nine touchdowns in 2017. His speed and explosive ability drew him comparisons to former Raven Torrey Smith. Like Smith, he also showed the propensity to occasionally drop easy passes — having a 16 percent drop rate over his final two college seasons.

Throughout the season, Lasley worked on the JUGS machine before and after practice. He was taken in by the veteran receivers, especially Brown. Depending on what happens with Brown’s contract, Lasley could be without one of his best teachers in his second season.

Brown caught 42 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns in 2018. The majority of his totals came with Joe Flacco as his quarterback with 34 receptions for 601 yards and four touchdowns. Brown was targeted 67 times in those games.

In the following seven games with Jackson under center, Brown was targeted 30 times and had just eight receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown. During his one playoff game with Jackson at the helm, Brown had two catches for 14 yards on three targets.

Lasley’s speed could slot him to compete with fellow speedster Chris Moore for Brown’s vacant “Z” receiver spot. His rapport with Jackson could give him the leg up, but he’ll never forget Brown’s contribution to his own development.

“Well, that decision isn’t mine,” said Lasley of his role becoming larger during the 2019 season. “I’m just gonna be me — I’m just gonna be Jordan Lasley and I’m gonna come everyday and come ready to work. Hopefully, Smoke [Brown] comes back — Smoke was a good guy to vibe off of and learn from and learn different things from because he’s a totally different receiver than what I am.

“I was able to take a lot from Smoke and wherever he ends up at — whether it’s here or anywhere else — they’re gonna get a really good guy. I’ll come ready and I’m ready to fulfill whatever role the team has for me.”

Through Baltimore’s ups and downs as a team, Lasley had to watch from the sideline. For any competitor, this is a tough situation. Not being able to assist your team through the thick of battle could hurt many. However, Lasley took his inactives in stride.

“I wouldn’t say it was humbling because I was in a position to take care of my family and enjoy football and get paid to play football,” Lasley said. “Obviously it was frustrating because I wanted to play — just like any other guy who has been playing football their whole life, but it’s not the first time that I’ve experienced something like this.”

“I redshirted my first year when I was in college. It wasn’t humbling, it was just another learning experience. I took that on the chin and I learned a whole lot from watching all of these games — all of the way back from preseason to training camp and now I know exactly what it is. I have an expectation now of what things are and I’m gonna come back and I’m gonna execute those things. I’ll take off, you guys will see.”

Along with Brown and Crabtree, Lasley took in a great deal from Willie Snead IV. The veteran trio of receivers were each able to give him a different outlook on how to play receiver during his rookie year.

“Even Crab [Crabtree] and Willie Snead are different receivers than I am too,” said Lasley of his teammates. “Those guys — they just brought different elements to the game. All of them approach the game differently.

“Smoke’s a more quiet guy and he’s just gonna run by you and get to work. Crab might let you know about it a little bit — Crab’s gonna put a little sauce on it. Willie’s gonna work his ass off — he’s gonna be the most prepared guy in the room. He’s gonna know every single play back and forth. So, I was able to learn a bunch of different things from those guys and man I was happy that I experienced that.”

Now heading into his sophomore season, he’ll have more challenges to getting more playing time. Baltimore will almost certainly draft another receiver in the earlier rounds to replace Crabtree and/or Brown. Many have discussed Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf or A.J. Brown, along with Arizona State’s N’keal Harry, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell and Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown.

They may bring in another veteran wideout to pair with Snead IV. Randall Cobb, Donte Moncrief, Pierre Garçon, Baltimore’s own Tavon Austin and Golden Tate are unrestricted free agents — just to name a few.

On top of it all, Jaleel Scott and Quincy Adeboyejo will be returning to compete for a spot.

Lasley will have his work cut out for him in the coming months. If he shows that his hard work during his rookie year paid off, he will have an increased role — whether it’s on special teams or in the receiving rotation. He learned a great deal in 2018 and it could be something that he carries over for the 2019 season.