Brown has big shoes to fill

WESTMINSTER -- Whenever center Mike Flynn glances a few feet to his left, a slightly unfamiliar sight greets him. Instead of the fixture that stood next to him for the past eight years on the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line, scrapping and straining alongside him on the line of scrimmage, a new reality exists. Edwin Mulitalo is no longer part of the team's foundation at left guard.

One year after emerging young blocker Jason Brown started a dozen games last season as an injury replacement, Mulitalo is now with the Detroit Lions after being cut by the Ravens this offseason due to injury and salary-cap issues.

With Mulitalo's departure, a new era begins on the offensive line as Brown enters his third season, but as a full-fledged starter for the first time.

"It's not really weird in the sense that you miss Edwin as a friend and, yeah, you were used to him always being there, but you don't really miss a step as far as on the field," Flynn said Tuesday morning at McDaniel College . "Jason knows what he's doing. We're starting to get used to each other."

A former Pro Bowl alternate who started on the Ravens' Super Bowl championship team, Mulitalo was one of the most popular players in franchise history. He was extremely active in the community, particularly with his Big Ed's Band foundation that supported musical programs in inner-city schools.

"Edwin was like a big brother, so that's pretty big shoes for me to fill," Brown acknowledged. "I'm still trying to fill them. I attended a Ravens Roost event in Ocean City with Edwin this summer and people were still screaming his name."

Brown is a 6-foot-3, 320-pound strongman out of North Carolina , a fourth-round pick in 2005 known for his weight-room prowess.

Built low to the ground like Mulitalo, Brown, 24, is younger and more mobile. Both players have similar games, according to Flynn.

That blue-collar style of play should come in handy as Flynn and Brown try to double-team heavyweight nose guards like the New England Patriots' Vince Woolfork (6-2, 350 pounds), the San Diego Chargers' Jamal Williams (6-3, 348 pounds), the Pittsburgh Steelers' Casey Hampton (6-1, 325 pounds), the New York Jets' Dewayne Robertson (6-1, 317 pounds), the Cleveland Browns' Ted Washington (6-5, 365 pounds) and the St. Louis Rams' Adam Carriker (6-6, 292 pounds).

"They're pretty much the same type of guys," Flynn said. "They get into people's bodies. As big as they are, they have the ability to cut off the back side.

"Jason isn't the tallest guy, but he's good at rooting out big nose guards. We seem to play a lot of them this year. I try to stand them up, and he has to dig them out of there."

A year ago, the Ravens set a franchise record by allowing just 17 sacks, the lowest total in team history.

Brown played in every game, taking over for Mulitalo permanently in the fourth quarter of an October game against the Denver Broncos due to Mulitalo's triceps injury.

Now, Brown is in a different role altogether. He entered camp fairly entrenched as the starter with former starting right guard Keydrick Vincent backing him up.

Just don't tell Brown he can relax and let down his guard.

"When people say I'm the guy, I don't think that way," Brown said. "Until I make the Pro Bowl or reach that Jonathan Ogden status, I'm not the guy. I have to stay hungry."

Offensive line coach Chris Foerster echoed that sentiment, noting that Brown isn't guaranteed the job. However, it's considered unlikely that Vincent, who's heading into the final year of his contract, will supplant Brown.

"Jason Brown has done a nice job for us, he had a nice stretch for us last season," Foerster said. "It translated into him taking a good step forward this season. There's a lot of competition inside. While Jason right now has the nod at left guard and has some experience, it's going to be tough."

A former All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection who only allowed three career sacks, including none during his junior and senior seasons as he started 36 consecutive games at center, Brown has the blockish body that NFL scouts covet for the interior offensive line.

"I'm one of the shortest guys out there, but I also have a wide build," Brown said. "When it comes to the running game, I love getting in there and rooting guys out in pass protection. I'm very comfortable in the middle stopping bull rushers."

Brown can bench press well over 500 pounds, brute strength that allows him to effectively hand-punch defensive lineman to stop their initial charge. While it's important to hoist the heavy metal, it's not the ultimate factor in determining the success of a lineman.

"You've got to spend as much time on the football field as you do in the weight room," Brown said. "All of that has to transfer to the football field to the weight room. There are a ton of bodybuilders who would get smashed in the game of football."

A native of Henderson , N.C. , Brown is already anticipating his first victory of the football season: a new arrival in the family. His wife is pregnant, and a son is due Oct. 29.

"I love my family, and I'm so excited about this new addition," Brown said. "Luckily, we have the bye week during that date. Hopefully, he won't come too early or too late. Hopefully, he'll be right on time."

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