On the injury front, the Ravens received a break with WR/KR Jacoby Jones returning to practice on Wednesday. Jones has been sidelined since Week 1 with a knee injury sustained in a collision with rookie Brynden Trawick, who seemingly let the bright lights and national TV stage get the best of him during the season opener.
Jones’ progress has been positive, as he’s been moving without a noticeable limp during the portions of special teams practice open to the media. On the Ravens official injury report, Jones has been listed as “limited participation” for Wednesday and Thursday, and will likely be a game-time decision on Sunday in Miami.
After a shaky preseason, Jones was playing well, hauling in three receptions for 24 yards before leaving the Denver game at the hands of friendly-fire from Trawick. Given their performance in his absence, the Ravens offense could surely utilize Jones’ field-stretching abilities. However, that also may have a negative impact on someone who has stepped up tremendously in Jones’ absence – rookie undrafted free-agent wide receiver, Marlon Brown.
Having played in 247 snaps (81%) through the first four weeks of the season while scoring a team-high three touchdowns, Brown’s impact could decrease when Jones returns. This was something I asked head coach John Harbaugh about.
“We’ll, sure it will,” Harbaugh said when I asked him about the impact on Brown’s snap count. “Having more guys available is going to impact everybody’s number of snaps, but hopefully we can use all those guys in really positive ways and improve our offense.”
Brown’s frame (6-5, 205) makes him perfect to play outside, but the Ravens have given him looks in the slot, a position still that is lacking an identity thus far. Brown is a prototypical red zone threat, but moving him to the slot is a way to keep one of the Ravens’ surprising playmakers on the field as much as possible when Jones is healthy.
“You get a sense that he’s one of those guys that learns quickly,” Harbaugh said of Brown. “He has a real fine football mind, so we can put him a number of different locations – which is a good thing.”
I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Brown and Jones alternating snaps in the slot. Jones’ hands don’t make him an ideal candidate as a slot receiver, but his speed makes him quite a mismatch against a linebacker. Jones’ speed is right up there with fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith. I can’t help but think back to the Week 12 (Hey diddle diddle) game against the Chargers where Smith came across on a route short left, caught the ball a few yards away from Flacco and turned on the afterburners, resulting in a 54 yard gain. Jones is perfectly capable of doing the same thing.
Regardless of where they play, Brown has shown in Jones’ absence that he warrants additional time on the field. I’d fully expect the Ravens passing attack to improve, but we could potentially see some creative alignments of wide receivers.
The offense isn’t at full strength, but if Jones can play on Sunday, they’re just one step closer to finding their identity.
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