OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens finally welcomed their explosive first-round wide receiver to the practice field Wednesday while also providing a reminder of their unfortunate track record at the position.
Marquise Brown was a limited participant in his first NFL practice less than seven months after undergoing Lisfranc surgery on his left foot. The speedy Oklahoma product suited up to take part in individual position drills after missing the first five full-squad workouts of training camp, an encouraging sign for a run-first offense seeking more upside at the wide receiver position.
The 22-year-old displayed good speed in a limited number of individual reps, but the Ravens will bring him along slowly after he was still feeling soreness making certain cuts at the start of training camp. It’s unclear whether Brown will play in the preseason opener against Jacksonville a week from Thursday.
“Hopefully, his progression to practice will be pretty fast,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll see. We don’t want any setbacks. We don’t have to over-rush him now, but I am looking forward to seeing him out there with other guys in real situations and seeing how he does.”
During full-team work, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Brown caught passes on the Jugs machine and studied a play sheet while watching practice with teammates. He received individual on-field instruction from wide receivers coach David Culley in the final portion of practice, working on the timing and spacing of his routes as quarterback Lamar Jackson threw passes to him.
Despite not being able to practice until this point, Brown has attended all meetings and expressed confidence in his knowledge of his assignments in the offense. The key will be translating that mental preparation to the field in time to make the play-making impact general manager Eric DeCosta envisioned when making Brown the fourth wide receiver selected in the first round in team history.
“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting on this,” Brown said. “To be out here made me realize I’ve got to work even harder. … I feel great. The training staff here is great. I just give them all the credit and just follow what I had to do.”
As Brown saw his first practice time as an NFL player, the Ravens waived 2018 fifth-round wide receiver Jordan Lasley, who was inactive for all 16 games in his rookie season. The UCLA product caught 69 passes for 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns in his junior season for the Bruins in 2017, but questionable hands and maturity questions prompted his slide down the draft board.
Those issues persisted in his time with the Ravens as he dropped too many passes and showed inconsistent effort during practices, sometimes drawing the ire of coaches. On Monday, Lasley was involved in an altercation with defensive backs Cyrus Jones and Bennett Jackson that included some punches being thrown. A few minutes after the scuffle, the 22-year-old receiver caught a touchdown pass and threw the football into the pond adjacent to the practice field.
Harbaugh said those incidents “absolutely did not” factor into the decision to cut Lasley, but his path to a roster spot already appeared bleak early in camp.
“We’ve never cut somebody for fighting anyway,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been over a year [with Lasley] now. I think just from a fit perspective in terms of what we’re trying to do with our offense, other guys are going to be a better fit. I feel like Eric gave him an opportunity to get out with another team right now rather than wait.”
Lasley is the latest in a long list of drafted wide receiver not to pan out for the Ravens. After taking four-year starter and Super Bowl XLVII champion Torrey Smith in the second round of the 2011 draft, Baltimore drafted nine wide receivers from 2011 through 2018 who combined to make just 116 career catches for the Ravens. Only 2018 fourth-round pick Jaleel Scott remains from that group, and he is battling for a roster spot this summer after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. It’s fair noting, however, that 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman was the only one of the bunch to be selected before the fourth round, illustrating what little meaningful draft capital was invested in the position for a long time.
In his first year as general manager, DeCosta tried to buck that trend with the additions of Brown and third-round pick Miles Boykin, which equaled the number of wide receivers the Ravens drafted in the first three rounds from 2008-2018. Boykin has impressed early in training camp, and Brown now hopes to join the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Notre Dame product in turning heads and providing Jackson with dangerous weapons in the passing game.
“Miles is my roommate, so every day I just hype him up, talk him up,” Brown said. “He’s been doing a great job. I’m just trying to feed off of what he’s doing and, once I’m on the field, complement him the best I can.”