Depending on whether the Arizona Cardinals chose to play some of their starters, the Baltimore Ravens will be facing off against a familiar face in Week 2 of the 2022 preseason in wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown.
General Manager Eric DeCosta traded the former first-round pick to the Cardinals on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft in exchange for the pick he used to select projected starting center Tyler Linderbaum. Brown had requested the trade and has gone on the record about the reasons why he was unhappy in Baltimore and wanted out of town on several occasions since being dealt.
“Yeah, it’s about happiness,” Brown said in a post practice press conference on August 17, 2022. “I mean, I want to feel like I’m a part of something to win. At the Ravens, I just felt like sometimes, they really didn’t need me, like, regardless if I was there or not, they’re going to win games, and you know, I love the game too much. I want to be involved.”
DeCosta made Brown his first-ever pick as the Ravens’ head front office executive in 2019 as the No. 25 overall pick out of Oklahoma even though he was recovering from a Lisfranc foot injury and would hamper him a bit as a rookie. While All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews is the primary pass-catching threat in the offense, Brown led the team in receiving yards in his second season with 769 and produced his first of over 1,000 in 2021.
While he may not have seen the consistent volume he wanted during his time in the Ravens’ run-heavy offense, there were games and stretches of weeks where they prominently featured him in the offensive game plan and he caught 21 touchdowns over his first three seasons. His struggles with drops over his last two years with the are well documented and came in some very inopportune times but the belief and confidence of both coaching staff and starting quarterback Lamar Jackson never wavered.
Brown hasn’t had the smoothest start to his tenure with the Cardinals as he just completed his first full week of practice in training camp after being limited by a hamstring injury at the start. He also was arrested for speeding on August 3, 2022, and is remorseful for setting a poor example as a role model.
“Very disappointed. I mean, I got a lot of kids that look up to me. So I want to set the right example at all times,” Brown said.
New Deep Threat Option Emerging
When the Ravens traded away Brown, they not only lost their second-leading receiver but also their most dangerous vertical threat. According to Pro Football Reference, the vaunted speedster averages 12.1 yards per reception for his career and was averaging 14.8 yards per catch last year, and was on pace for a truly transcendent season through the first eight games of the season.
The deterioration of the offensive line forced the passing game to be limited to running more shallow and intermediate routes. While the shift offered more run after catch opportunities but reduced the number of deep shots taken due to a lack of consistent pass protection.
While many fans and pundits have been clamoring for the Ravens to sign a free agent or trade for a deep threat, they might already have an adequate replacement on the roster. Heading into his third season and coming off a First Team All-Pro season as a kick returner, Devin Duvernay has been making plays down the field in training camp practices since returning from dealing with a soft tissue thigh contusion.
After showing the weapon he could be on special teams, Duvernay is “supper excited” and highly motivated to show that he can do the same on offense with more opportunities in 2022.
“Being All-Pro, Pro Bowl or whatever just encouraged me to be better,” he said in a press conference on August 9, 2022. “[I] continue to keep working, keep grinding and be a better receiver, and maybe one day that leads to being an All-Pro receiver. I just keep my head down, I keep working, and want to be the best player I can be.”
He showed in limited opportunities that he can get behind opposing defenses down the seams and sidelines as well as in the end zone where has shown excellent concentration and body control.
Duvernay has only recorded been targeted 73 times in his first two seasons and has just 53 receptions, 473 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns, both of which came in 2021. He is also capable of and will likely be utilized more as a runner on jet sweeps this season as the team looks for more ways to get the ball in his hands after not making any significant additions to the position group since trading Brown.
Free Agent and Trade Block Options at WR
The Ravens have been a popular projected landing spot for just about every veteran on the open market and or any young player available for trade since dealing Brown and that has continued this week with them being linked to Darius Slayton and Nelson Agholor as potential targets.
Some other possible deep threat options include Will Fuller and Desean Jackson who are still unsigned and Jalen Reagor of the Philadelphia Eagles. Fuller and Jackson can still take the top off of opposing defenses but have struggled with injuries as of late and throughout his career in Fuller’s case.
Another intriguing option that the team could entertain trading for is one of Brown’s current teammates with the Cardinals, Andy Isabella. The former University of Massachusetts stand-out came into the league the same year as Brown except he was selected in the second round and is heading into the final year of his rookie contract.
Arizona might be willing to move on from the 5-foot-9 undersized speedster who has recorded just 31 receptions, 426 receiving yards, and three touchdowns in 36 career games. They’ve added at least one receiver in each of the last two offseason including trading for Brown this year and signing and re-signing 7-time Pro Bowler AJ Green. Isabella could likely be had for a conditional sixth or seventh-round pick in the 2023 or 2024 NFL Draft.