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Film room: How Greg Roman can deploy Hollywood Brown

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens closed the book on the 2019 NFL Draft having made some nice additions to their team. A core focus was bringing in some help for quarterback Lamar Jackson. They started off with a bang, grabbing the flashy receiver than fans have been clamoring for in Marquise “Hollywood” Brown at 25th overall.

Largely considered to be the top receiver in the class, Baltimore received some nice value in a short trade down pick swap with Philadelphia to snag the aptly named playmaker, and will certainly look to get some serious use out of him in 2019. So how can Greg Roman maximize his value in what figures to be an unconventional attack with Lamar Jackson pulling the trigger?

Manufactured touches

Even though he’s a bonafide deep threat thanks to his game breaking speed, one thing that jumps out about the way Lincoln Riley used Brown at Oklahoma is how often he touched the ball either at the line of scrimmage, or just a few seconds after his release. A 2017 matchup against Oklahoma State contains a few examples:

Baker Mayfield applies a nice play action fake to draw the defense to the left and then comes back to Brown on the wide receiver screen. Obviously, you’ll notice his speed busting through the blocking line, but also take note of his patience that sets it up for him as well - those few stutter steps he makes allows for the key block to be made and opens things up for the explosive run after the catch.

This is equal parts strong football IQ for a skill position player, as well as great coaching and play design. Play action is going to be a huge element of Baltimore’s offense in 2019, and it’s going to be key to unlocking Hollywood’s potential to produce.

But it shouldn’t just be on play fakes that Roman goes back to that short passing well with Brown. That aforementioned speed and YAC production were big for him as a Sooner, and part of that was his short area route running. From that same game, a few plays later:

Getting a clean release off the line allows for him to hit another stop-and-start stutter step that leaves the defender in the dust and split the safeties en route to a long touchdown. Press coverage is likely to be tighter at the next level so this may be more difficult for Brown to do on a consistent basis, but when he does, don’t be surprised to see him house these plays.

The main element is just giving him the ball in an open short area and allowing him to be creative with the ball in his hands. Another example of that comes below in a 2018 game against West Virginia:

The quick dig route is pretty straightforward and Brown turns it into a nice gainer. However, notice how he gets so open underneath: Number #84 (wide receiver Lee Morris) runs the same route the other way and effectively picks the defensive back who was covering Brown. Downfield blocking by the other wideouts involved in the play let him push this even further, and indicate that this is essentially an elaborate screen. A similar play later in the game breaks for paydirt:

Minus the slant route which was just an example of great body control and short route running, the other two plays are examples of manufactured touches that take advantage of Brown’s explosive ability. These are the type of plays that Roman is going to want to start with when installing Brown’s role in this offense.

The coaching staff and front office have been open about their desire for receivers who can block. While that’s great for the running game, which is of course the assumed reason for wanting to acquire blockers, it also helps open up things near the line of scrimmage for someone like Hollywood. For that reason, him being the top receiver on their board and the player who’s name they called on draft night makes so much sense.

The long ball

The most obvious strength of Hollywood’s game is his straight line speed. Had he been healthy, his 40-yard dash time may well have been sub 4.3 seconds at the combine.

Going back to that shootout with OK State, Brown lands the eventual knockout punch by showing off his wheels late in the game:

For context, Oklahoma had been pounding the rock with Rodney Anderson and hitting the intermediate seam with Mark Andrews consistently leading up to this. Thanks to that slow play by Lincoln Riley, Mayfield sells a quick play action to Anderson just enough that a simple nine route by Brown frees him up in a one-on-one look, and Hollywood does the rest.

Another example of play action helping him to get open deep came against FAU this past season:

The line and the play fake all shoot hard to the right, and the receivers run their routes coming back the other way. Kyler Murray sells it well and lets one go deep to Brown who blew past his defender even with a decent cushion, which is a testament to his speed. It’s also a very nice play call, utilizing misdirection and a play fake to create the opportunity for the strong armed Murray and the electrifying Brown.

There’s a reason that Riley is one of the hotter names in college football right now and has been getting a ton of NFL buzz recently. Roman would be smart to apply this logic to his gameplan; the running game with Jackson and Mark Ingram is going to be huge, and Andrews and Hayden Hurst will no doubt be working the middle of the field as well.

The right mix of all of that combined with play action will help Brown get open deep as he does above, and hopefully lead to some game breaking plays. Another deep score in the West Virginia game shows off Brown’s speed and crafty route running:

Hollywood had been working the underneath to intermediate routes to great effect all game, and then came free with a nice hesitation move that got the safety to bite. From there it was a free run towards the post and another six point for the Sooners. Rather than anything tangible from Riley here that Roman can use, this is just simply savvy route running by Brown, and another example of why he’ll be a day one starter for Baltimore.

Greg Roman goes Hollywood

The Ravens offense is sure to look pretty similar to what it was last year, though Roman will need to evolve the scheme in order to facilitate Jackson’s continued development. Effectively using his new number one target is going to be key in doing so.

NFL teams have already begun to look to Norman to pick Riley’s brain on offensive concepts, and Roman would be wise to do the same - especially considering Brown is now his most high profile receiving weapon (not to mention the burgeoning Oklahoma-Baltimore pipeline).

We’re sure to hear more about how this pairing is going to work and what it is ultimately going to look like down the road. But for now, this is just a portion of what to expect from Hollywood Brown within the Ravens offense. Hopefully, he’s just as productive and exciting as he was for the Sooners these past two years.