A change of scenery appears to have been very good for former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown.
Brown, who disappointed in his final two seasons in Arizona after having 65 catches for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns in his second season, is receiving rave reviews for his play with the Ravens in Baltimore.
“He has been better than we expected,” coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun. “Obviously, we’ve had high hopes for him, but [he’s] better than advertised — probably even better than what the tape showed, I would say. He’s been a complete receiver for us.”
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A Cardinals third-round pick in 2014, “Smoke” Brown played well in his first two seasons, catching 113 passes for 1,699 yards and 12 touchdowns.
After his solid second season in 2015, Brown had just 39 catches for 517 yards and two touchdowns in 2016.
Brown suffered through a variety of muscle strains and pulls last year. He missed six games and caught just 21 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who has looked much-improved so far this preseason, credits his improved play to Brown.
The wide receiver has given Baltimore a deep threat in the passing game that it has been lacking in previous seasons.
“I really think that’s a credit to [Brown] and just how well he can get off the ball and get going vertical and put those DBs in a bad position,” Flacco told ESPN.com. “When you don’t get that, it makes it a little bit tough to hang back there and figure out where you’re going to put the ball. I think him in particular, he’s just been doing a great job of beating guys off the line and showing guys what he’s made of.”
Brown said that he contemplated quitting football.
“I didn’t even know if I wanted to play anymore,” Brown told the Baltimore Sun. “God does stuff for a reason, and at that time, I guess he had a better place for me. I think I’m in that place now.”
Brown says he’s ready to go in 2018.
“I’m fully healthy, and they’re taking care of me,” Brown told the Baltimore Sun. “People don’t even know the situation. They think I’m prone to injury. But I’m just at a place where I’m happy. They’re taking care of me, and they understand me.”
Ravens receiver Willie Snead also praised Brown’s start in Baltimore.
“JB is electric, man,” wide receiver Willie Snead told ESPN. “He’s done a lot of things great since we stepped on the field here. I’m just really, really happy for him that he’s actually healthy and he’s making plays like that.”
Brown’s emergence in Baltimore has to remind Cardinals fans of his strong first couple of seasons in the league, especially as the team searches for wide receivers to step up and as the fans ponder who will be the team’s No. 2 wide receiver after Larry Fitzgerald.