John Brown’s “uncommon” talents have him primed for major explosion

LAS VEGAS — Arizona Cardinals’ wide receiver John Brown saw more and did more than any other rookie did last season. Brown worked with quarterback Carson Palmer in the offseason and developed a quick, strong bond with him.

That bond saved the Cardinals in the regular season opener. Palmer and Brown hooked up on a game-winning 13-yard touchdown pass with 2:32 left, as the Cardinals would slide by the San Diego Chargers by an 18-17 score.

Brown and Palmer would have a short in their connection as the season wore on. Brown had to work with Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley over the course of the season, with Palmer and Stanton both in and out with various injuries.

When Palmer suffered his ACL injury against the St. Louis Rams in Week 10, that connection with him and Brown was completely gone. Brown had to hook into three other quarterback’s circuits and power himself back up.

Brown did a masterful job of keeping his wits about himself despite the situation with his field generals. The average 24-year-old might have crumbled if they were in Brown’s shoes, but not him.

Brown’s maturity, and his body, have both grown in the offseason. He came to his second set of offseason workouts in better mental and physical condition, and they both have him primed for an even more explosive season.

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling also believes that Brown is ready to take that next step, putting him at No. 6 on NFL.com’s “Making the Leap” list.

Wesseling says Brown can “thank” those injuries to Palmer and Stanton for where he is on the list.

“Like all Cardinals receivers, he (Brown) vanished from the offense once an overwhelmed, scattershot Ryan Lindley took the reins in December. If Palmer had stayed healthy for 16 games, Brown’s leap would have been made. He was that impressive early in the season,” Wesseling said.

Wesseling talked about how head coach Bruce Arians would put Brown in pretty much any position he could in the offense, similar to how he did it with T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace in his days with the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers.

“At 5-foot-11 with 4.34 wheels, his (Brown) deep speed and uncommon stop-start quickness hardly came as a surprise. What stood out was Brown’s impressive leaping ability, great ball skills, sideline artistry and sure hands,” Wesseling said.

Brown also impressed Wesseling with the fearless attitude he brought to the game, which set him apart from a lot of the other rookie wide receivers last season.

“”Smokey” consistently takes the top off defenses as an explosive deep threat. He absolutely lays out for deep balls, which helped inspire (Carson) Palmer and (Drew) Stanton to fearlessly target a rookie attracting double coverage down the field,” Wesseling said.

“Brown has all of the traits to develop into a No. 1 receiver,” Wesseling said.

As far as any obstacles that are hindering Brown’s progression in Year Two, Brown’s seemingly taken care of that, which is his strength, which Wesseling made note of. Brown put on around 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason, which should have him better prepared for the rigors of a 16-game season.

“He (Brown) also needs to add a semblance of power to break arm tackles in tight spaces. If he doesn’t get more physical, he will be relegated to a supporting role behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd,” Wesseling said.

Wesseling feels the Cardinals’ offense can be one of the best in the NFL this season. For him, it all hinges on Palmer coming back and staying healthy for the entire season, and there can be no more musical chairs at the quarterback position.

If that happens, then Wesseling can see Brown shoot toward the stars.

“(John) Brown is a more uniquely talented receiver than (Michael) Floyd. It wouldn’t surprise us if the former is thrust into a more prominent role at the expense of the latter, with the Cardinals ultimately allowing Floyd to walk as a free agent,” Wesseling said.

“In the meantime, Brown can realistically target a 1,000-yard season on an NFC title contender,” Wesseling said.

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