Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown hauls in a touchdown pass in front of cornerback Justin Bethel at Monday's practice.
The ball dropped incomplete, just beyond the reach of Jaron Brown with no Raiders defender near him, an easy 46-yard touchdown lost.
Quarterback Carson Palmer took the blame for overthrowing Brown. Coach Bruce Arians said Brown ran the correct route. But Brown shook his head, choosing himself to call out.
"I should've laid out for that one," Brown said. "It was a perfect ball. Had the coverage confused and everything. I've got to make that play. Anybody knows I've got to make that play."
Maybe that's exactly what keeps pushing Brown, now in his fifth season. Many times just the last receiver
on the roster on board to help anchor special teams, Brown has come off an ACL tear that ruined his 2016 with a chance – and perhaps a Cardinals' need – to help save the receiving corps.
Larry Fitzgerald is the No. 1 wideout. Brown? "He's No. 2 right now," coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday.
It's not John Brown, who is finally returning to practice full go after battling a quad injury. It's not J.J. Nelson, who remains a dangerous deep threat but whose smaller size continues to work against having a bigger role. It's not the long-departed Michael Floyd, who this time last year still had a chance to be a major part of the future.
"I've been here for awhile," Jaron Brown said. "Every camp is different. We obviously have injuries, and that gives me an opportunity. I just try to take advantage.
"I wouldn't say I'm undervalued. I feel like I'm used a lot – especially in practice."
The remarkable part of Brown's place on the depth chart isn't so much about a question with his receiving skills. Brown was off to a great start as a receiver last year, taking important reps away from the
underachieving Floyd in September.
The return from his ACL tear is what turns heads. In the seventh month of rehab, Brown was already thinking about ditching his knee brace. While he was told to wear it to open camp, it was discarded less than two weeks in. While he was limited at first, he seamlessly integrated into work soon enough, making plays.
"I keep feeling like they're going to hold him back," said Palmer, a veteran of two ACL rehabs. "I feel like he's going to miss some days. Like there's going to be some soreness or something, but it's like it never happened, which is amazing.
"It's a testament to him and nobody else. He worked his tail off. We all witnessed it. We saw him all offseason, all spring. It's literally like (the injury) never happened."
With 55 catches in four years, Brown has never been a go-to target. He still is needed on special teams. But his chemistry with Palmer has grown – missed bomb aside – and the Cardinals need him to remain a viable threat, even if John Brown and Nelson click again.
"I'm always going to be my toughest critic," Jaron Brown said. "I felt like I could've made some plays in the game. I'm still getting my feet under me. I'm just trying to make progress."