In what has been a lackluster training camp for the wide receiver position (after Torrey Smith), two bright spots have been a couple rookies.
Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown are two players that have at least given the wide receiver position a pulse this preseason. With so many struggling above them on the depth chart, both have not only shown up during practice, they’ve also put together some impressive game film.
Having watched this battle closely throughout the preseason, it appears that each player has one-upped the other at various points throughout training camp, but neither have gained separation.
The Ravens didn’t invest much into Mellette, using one of their two seventh-round picks on the Elon University receiver. By drafting Mellette, the team assured that he’d at least be invited to their training camp and other teams wouldn’t have an option to recruit him during the undrafted free agency scramble after the draft.
For Brown, the story was different. It was a stroke of luck that he ended up in the Ravens’ training camp. Brown originally chose to join the Houston Texans, but somewhere along the line there was a snag and he ended up in Baltimore instead.
“We recruited him like crazy,” Harbaugh said about Brown. “We really liked him from the beginning. [When] I saw him, he jumped off the tape.”
If Brown wasn’t coming off a torn ACL suffered in his final year at Georgia, he certainly would have been drafted. Luckily, the stars aligned and the Ravens got a very good talent and it didn’t cost them a draft pick.
Running With The First Team
Last Sunday, the Ravens gave Torrey Smith a day off. The purpose, though, wasn’t just to rest Smith; they were trying to see what type of rapport the rookies could build with quarterback Joe Flacco. With Jacoby Jones on one side, Brown got first crack with the starters.
Throughout the week, each player had their fair share of reps working with Flacco.
When it came time to enter the game, Mellette was the first rookie receiver to join the first team, replacing Jones.
Brown scored his first touchdown of the preseason on Thursday against the Panthers. In total, Brown led the Ravens receivers in all three major categories with his four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. His showing was even more impressive because even though the Panthers’ secondary isn’t one of the best, they are NFL starters. Mellette, on the other hand, has flourished against backups.
Speaking of Mellette, he had a sub-par night, catching only two passes for nine yards.
Here are their stats through three preseason games:
When it comes to their style of play, Mellette has displayed good footwork at times and with a little coaching, can likely improve his route running and moves to lose cornerbacks. Mellette has made more plays than just catching a pair of touchdowns; he’s also drawn multiple pass interference penalties. However, I’ve seen that Mellette struggles with getting separation which is why his touchdowns looked so good – he was well covered.
Brown is a big target (6-5, 205) and at least to me, shows better seperation skills at this point. Given the amount of times he’s been targeted and his success in fewer games, you’d have to think his game film is better at this point.
What Will The Ravens Do?
As it stands now, this competition is too close to call in my opinion. If I had to pick, I think Brown would be the safest option at this point to make the 53-man roster. His size is too good to pass up, he worked more from the slot (a position the Ravens have struggled with) and he’s proven he can play with the first team.
For Mellette and Brown, they’ll have to treat each practice as if it was a game because this battle is equivalent to a two-minute drive to get into field goal range for the win.
I can’t envision the Ravens letting either of these players reach their practice squad because they’re likely to be claimed by another team. More likely than not, the one player will earn a spot on the 53-man roster, and another will be placed on injured reserve to protect them as a project for this season as the Ravens did with Tommy Streeter last year. But, unlike Streeter, these players have NFL potential.
Expect a hangnail to pop up after Thursday’s preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams. As for who gets it, that depends on another week’s worth of practice and game film.