Sitting on a 6-2 record entering Week 10 of the 2021 season, one of the main reasons for the Baltimore Ravens’ recent success has been their production and explosiveness on offense.
Leaving aside the performances of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who’s playing MVP-caliber football, the Ravens are enjoying the breakout season of their third-year receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown — who’s quickly emerging as one of the NFL most feared playmakers.
Through nine weeks of NFL football, Brown ranks sixth in the league in receiving yards with 682. He’s just 87 yards shy of his career-high of 791 yards collected in his sophomore campaign. The stat speaks for itself about how productive Brown has been so far this season as Lamar Jackson’s primary target, as his mark of share of team’s air yards percentage ranks 12th in the NFL (35.9%).
Even though Brown doesn’t rank among the top pass-catchers from a yards-after-the-catch standpoint, he has cemented his status as one of the best deep threats in the league. The former first-round pick ranks seventh in average targeted air yards per target (14.6). The fact that Brown has been able to turn these opportunities into the second-most 20+ receiving yard plays in the NFL certifies that “Hollywood” is an elite deep threat.
The only thing Hollywood dropped was the— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) October 3, 2021
MARQUISE. BROWN. 6️⃣ pic.twitter.com/I14Ue5ovDf
The former Oklahoma pass-catcher displayed plenty of flashes in his first two seasons in the league but he was never able to find the week-to-week consistency that he has finally found this season. In 2021, Brown has been able to collect at least 80 receiving yards or a touchdown in six of eight games. Other than pure development for a player in his third season, another important reason for his success could be attributed to the decision taken by the Ravens to invest on physical receivers. This has taken pressure off Brown and putting him in the position to elevate his strengths.
Since 2019, the year in which he was drafted, the Ravens have never had a reliable X-receiver to put alongside Brown, with tight end Mark Andrews being the only other reliable down-to-down pass catcher. Due to his smaller frame, consistently facing the opposition's best cornerback limited Brown’s ceiling, as his skillset is better designed to create chaos from the slot or when aligned as the Z-receiver. It’s definitely not a coincidence that Brown is enjoying his best season after Baltimore added Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman this offseason. Both players are big-bodied pass catchers that catch the attention of No. 1 cornerbacks, giving “Hollywood” the opportunity to create damage and explosive plays.
Veteran Willie Snead was designed to embrace that role in the last couple of seasons but inconsistency and overall talent didn’t make him as valuable to the offense as Watkins or Bateman. So far, they have helped the passing game in a major way by giving more balance to it and creating more space.
This year, Brown’s offensive coaches (Greg Roman, Keith Williams, Tee Martin) have frequently expressed during press conferences their joy seeing Brown finally be able to find consistency and elevate his game. “Hollywood” himself cited the word “consistency” as the key for his recent success. Being able to stay away from injuries has been an important factor, also. However, both Roman and Martin have said that Brown has truly taken a step forward in his development process by paying more attention to details and expressing the desire to really work on his weaknesses and inconsistencies.
After Brown was criticized for dropping three potential touchdowns in Week 3 against the Lions, the receiver bounced back in a major way — showing impressive maturity and willingness to get back on track after a shaky performance. His breakout can been seen as a blend of multiple factors getting together: his maturity as a player, the willingness to work on details and playing in a more balanced passing game that is helping Brown elevate his skillset.
Brown’s chemistry with Lamar Jackson is improving on a game-to-game basis and when targeting his lightning-quick receiver (who’s also the author of the 14th fastest play in the NFL so far reaching 21.33 MPH on his 49-yard touchdown against the Broncos) Jackson is collecting a solid 115.7 passer rating, while overall Brown has turned his 69 targets into 46 receptions, 682 receiving yards, six touchdowns and only three drops.
Brown has a legitimate chance to end up as a Top-10 wide receiver from a receiving yards standpoint at the end of the season. Just to add more context to his impressive breakout campaign, Brown is on pace to shatter the team’s mark for most receiving yards in a single-season. He is in-line to produce 1450 receiving yards, a mark that would break Michael Jackson’s record of 1201 receiving yards collected during the 1996 campaign.
Leaving statistics aside, Brown has finally blossomed into the weapon the Ravens desperately needed him to become when they drafted him in the first round of the 2019 draft.