Rookie WR John Brown emerging in Arizona

Rookie WR John Brown was a relative unknown entering this season, but the third-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh State is quickly making a name for himself.

Rookie WR John Brown just got a lot more popular.

Following an eventual game-winning touchdown against the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 and a two touchdown performance against the San Francisco 49ers, Brown’s notoriety around the league is certainly increasing.

“No one knows me, but they know that once I get the ball I can do things,” Brown said following Sunday’s 23-14 win against the 49ers.

Brown, a rookie third-round draft pick from Pittsburgh State, singlehandedly changed the course of the game against San Francisco. Brown caught two second-half touchdown passes from QB Drew Stanton, helping the Arizona Cardinals overcome a 14-6 halftime deficit.

But it wasn’t an accident, it was all by design.

“Coming out the whole practice week, it was like the whole game plan was around me to try and get the ball in my hands more,” Brown said following Sunday’s contest. “A lot of people looking at Larry and Michael, so it opened up big time,” he added.

Brown has been identified as a mismatch by Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, something that has been apparent through three games this year. Look for that mismatch to continue for the remainder of the season with Arians looking to get Brown the ball both down the field and in space.

When dissecting Arizona’s personnel, the mix of players at wide receiver is awfully impressive. All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald has been the heart and soul of the Cardinals for years, but he’s clearly passing the torch.

Michael Floyd was tabbed as a breakout star this year, and even with an injury to QB Carson Palmer, Floyd has kept his end of that bargain. Floyd had his best game of the season in Week 3, totaling nine grabs for 114 yards. Floyd caught many pundits eye after averaging 16 yards per catch a year ago, and is currently outpacing that number in 2014, averaging a staggering 22.9 yards per catch.

The emergence of Floyd started last year and almost everyone saw his rise continuing this season. Floyd ended up as the Cardinals’ top receiving target a year ago, and that trend was expected to continue.

Brown’s rise, however, wasn’t quite as obvious.

Brown is a perfect complement to Floyd and to Fitzgerald. In a three wide receiver set, Brown is usually the one lining up against a linebacker, safety or a nickel cornerback. In that scenario, Brown will be open more often than not.

Floyd’s ability to stretch the field helps Brown dramatically, and Fitzgerald remains a reliable target underneath allowing Arizona’s trio of wideouts to work in a seemingly perfect harmony.

Through three games, Brown has been targeted 15 times and has reeled in nine of those targets for 109 yards. More importantly, he’s reached the end zone on three occasions which ties him for fourth in the NFL along with a host of other players.

Even though Brown has experienced a great deal of success already, he’s still a rookie and prone to making rookie mistakes from time to time.

“We had (Brown) earlier on a similar play and he went underneath, got his (expletive) chewed out and this time he ran it right,” Arians said. “Had it ran it right earlier, he would have had a bomb about the third play of the game. Those rookies do and they learn,” he continued.

While Brown’s three touchdowns on nine catches are mighty impressive, the timing of those touchdowns is even more impressive. Brown has already proven himself as a dynamic weapon with the game on the line and it’s safe to assume he'll garner more attention from opposing defenses as the season goes on.


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