By Samuel Njoku
CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.
Marlon Brown – WR – #14
Weight: 214 lbs.
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
Experience: Two years
The Ravens fell from grace a year ago after hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy in New Orleans. The Super Bowl hangover claimed another victim as Baltimore fell to a generous 8-8 record and out of the playoff picture for the first time since 2007. The reason for their failures in 2013 weren’t difficult to see. Their offensive line was abysmal. It failed to protect their quarterback and left little running lanes available for their running backs. So the Ravens went to work and filled a number of holes in the offseason. They found a new center in Jeremy Zuttah. They hired a new offensive coordinator in Gary Kubiak after Jim Caldwell departed for the Detroit Lions.
But Baltimore also added a new receiver to the mix in former Carolina Panthers star Steve Smith. Presumably, this addition was made in an attempt to fill the hole left by Anquan Boldin when he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers. Though the Ravens were struggling overall as an offense, it was Boldin’s departure that was talked about the most. Many fans believed the loss of Boldin and the Ravens misfortunes went hand-in-hand. And while that notion may be as ridiculous as it sounds, the Ravens made sure not to leave any stone unturned.
Fans are excited about the acquisition of Steve Smith – and rightfully so. Smith is a tough, aggressive and an overall impressive receiver who can help take Baltimore’s offense to the next level. But there’s one receiver on the roster who is capable of making an impact, and his last name isn’t Smith. He’s big, fast and widely unknown. In fact, unless you live in Baltimore, you probably don’t even know his name. But he was the second leading rookie receiver in touchdown catches in 2013. Marlon Brown quietly became the Ravens big play receiver, and he wasn’t even drafted.
Going unnoticed only recently became a problem for Marlon Brown. Prior to the start of his professional career, he was the epitome of the phrase “hot commodity.” Brown left college as the No. 2 ranked WR by Scout.com as well as the No. 3 receiver by ESPN.com. He showcased his talents at Harding Academy, a private school located in his hometown of Memphis Tennessee. It was there that the Georgia Bulldogs noticed the young wideout and worked hard to recruit him into the program. Georgia already had great luck with current Cincinnati Bengal WR A.J. Green, so the hype surrounding Brown was substantial. But the playmaking receiver just couldn’t overcome the injury bug that plagued him throughout his collegiate career. A torn ACL put an end to his career at Georgia and all but ended any chances of him playing in the NFL. After hearing the news, Brown refused to let the injury keep him down.
“I told myself after those 10 minutes that I wouldn’t cry anymore,” Brown told reporters. “It happened. You’ve got to deal with it. If you want to achieve your dreams, you have to work hard for them. When I got hurt, it didn’t change anything. The only thing it changed was that I wasn’t going to get drafted. I was still going to play in the NFL.”
Brown did get an opportunity to play in the NFL when he agreed to terms with the Baltimore Ravens. What happened next was something that only Brown could have expected. He made an impact – a big one.
The Ravens felt the loss of Boldin as well as growing issues with the running game. Teams were double teaming Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta was out for an extended period of time with an injury. Baltimore needed someone to make a play for them. Someone to keep them in ball games. And Brown was more than willing to answer the call. He became the first rookie in Ravens history to score a touchdown in his first two games. He finished 2nd on the team in receiving yards and set the franchise record for 7 touchdowns as a rookie receiver. Only Keenan Allen of San Diego scored more touchdowns as a rookie in the NFL. That’s more than a hefty accomplishment for an undrafted rookie.
“He’s a playmaker,” stated Torrey Smith when asked about Marlon Brown.
That’s a fair assessment of the now second year wide receiver. But a more accurate assessment may be simply: He’s healthy. For the first time in a long time the former Georgia Bulldog is healthy. It’s made a world of difference for Marlon Brown, a receiver that most pundits aren’t talking about. But if Brown builds upon his performance from 2013, that’ll change very soon.
Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.