Miami Dolphins

Why the Baltimore Ravens should be South Florida’s bandwagon team this season

Miami Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris (90) chases Baltimore Ravens Marquise Brown (15) as he runs for a first quarter touchdown at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, Sunday, September, 8, 2019.
Miami Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris (90) chases Baltimore Ravens Marquise Brown (15) as he runs for a first quarter touchdown at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, Sunday, September, 8, 2019.

Marquise Brown, the NFL’s newest rookie sensation, got to see Boynton Beach Community High School play a few times when he was younger. Brown’s cousin was a quarterback at Hallandale High School earlier this decade and he would occasionally make his way to Hallandale Beach to watch him play. For two of those years, Hallandale had to figure out a near-impossible challenge to end the regular season.

How in the world could they stop Lamar Jackson?

“Everyone knew Lamar,” said Brown, who is now Jackson’s teammate with the Baltimore Ravens and played at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School in Hollywood.

It was the same challenge the Miami Dolphins had to figure out — and couldn’t — Sunday. Now the rest of the league might, too.

Always known better for his running ability than his passing, Jackson fired five touchdowns in a 59-10 rout of the Dolphins (0-1) at Hard Rock Stadium. He went 17 of 20 for 324 yards and didn’t throw an incomplete pass until 3:38 remained in the first half. In the first game of his sophomore season, Jackson posted a perfect passer just miles from his hometown and led the Ravens (1-0) to 643 total yards — the most ever piled up in a single game against Miami.

“Not bad for a running back,” Jackson quipped after a potentially star-making performance.

Two of those touchdowns came to Brown, the newest and most exciting weapon in his cache — and another player from the Miami metropolitan area. Jackson first hit the wide receiver for a 47-yard touchdown on a slant in the first quarter. A little later in the period, Jackson threw deep to Brown, who raced 83 yards to the end zone. The first two catches of Brown’s career were both touchdowns and he finished with four catches for 147 yards.

The embodiment of South Florida speed resides in the Mid-Atlantic.

“They’ve got that Florida speed,” tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “They’re very talented and they’re special, so they’re going to have a great career in the years to go.”

Baltimore also got a sack from linebacker Pernell McPhee, a Pahokee High School alumnus, and 56 rushing yards from running back Gus Edwards, who began his college career with the Miami Hurricanes.

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In an inevitably lost season in Miami Gardens, the Ravens will be an en vogue bandwagon choice with Jackson and Brown trying to replicate what it’s like to watch a seven-on-seven tournament somewhere in the Miami metro area.

Jackson was something of a local legend even before he was a perennial Heisman Trophy contender for the Louisville Cardinals. He was the player of the year in Palm Beach County as a senior after guiding historically downtrodden Boynton Beach to back-to-back playoff appearances. Although he was relatively lightly recruited, Jackson landed at Louisville and captivated the nation with the dual-threat prowess that made him famous in the Miami area.

Brown, whose nickname is “Hollywood” because of his Broward County hometown, was even more lightly recruited. He didn’t have a single scholarship offer coming out of Chaminade-Madonna and spent a year at a junior college before landing with the Oklahoma Sooners. Like with Jackson, Brown’s sheer speed quickly put him on All-American radars and eventually helped make him a first-round pick.

“I know y’all seen the speed. Y’all seen it right?” Jackson said. “I’ve been waiting since OTAs. I didn’t have him in OTAs. I got him toward the end of camp. We didn’t really have chemistry. Coach had some plays he didn’t like because we weren’t completing them, but today I guess he liked the plays. He’s fast.”

Their chemistry didn’t take long to click. Brown said Jackson was always pulling him aside to catch passes, even when a foot injury kept the receiver from running. Once Brown could start moving, he and Jackson were linking up to run routes. Stanley said the budding connection was obvious just because of how the two interact in the locker room.

They’re the foundation of Baltimore’s future and the future might be now. Brown lined up in the left slot for his first touchdown and got a step on Eric Rowe. Jackson hit Brown in stride and the rookie shrugged off a tackle from the cornerback to find the end zone. Brown was in the right slot for his second touchdown and just flat-out ran past safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to reel in his 83-yarder.

Brown played only 12 snaps in the win and was still targeted five times, making him Jackson’s most frequently targeted wideout.

“There was a lot of South Florida Ravens fans down here,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m sure a lot of our people came down from Baltimore. We heard from them and there’s a lot of people from down here that are now Ravens fans because of those guys, so it’s pretty exciting.”