Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown hauls in a reception in the first quarter on Friday night against the Chargers.
SAN DIEGO – Jaron Brown understands the reality of his situation.
The fourth-year receiver has been among the better players in Cardinals training camp, but he's stuck in a logjam on the positional depth chart.
When everyone is healthy, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown are the starters, while J.J. Nelson brings a speed element that helps stretch the field. During the regular season, Brown's playing time figures to be sporadic unless a wideout or two goes down with injury.
But on Friday night, Brown continued to show that there isn't much of a dropoff if he's counted upon. He was elevated to first-team wideout as John Brown (concussion) and Fitzgerald (knee) sat against the Chargers, and responded with a pair of catches for 40 yards in limited action.
"I'm not really sure about those guys' situations, but I know one thing," Brown said. "Whenever I'm in there, I've just got to keep making those plays."
John Brown and Nelson both have missed significant time in camp, giving Jaron Brown plenty of reps against the first-team defense. He was the star of the team's Red & White Practice, notable beating star cornerback Patrick Peterson on one long reception, and kept up the trend against San Diego.
His first catch came on third down from the team's own 5 when he high-pointed a beautifully thrown ball by Carson Palmer for a 23-yard gain to keep an early drive alive. His other reception came on a 17-yard pass from Drew Stanton later in the first quarter.
The standout play has not gone unnoticed.
"Jaron, he's the best wide receiver we have right now," coach Bruce Arians said. "Most consistent in practice and it shows up in games."
The Cardinals extended Brown a restricted free agent tender this offseason, which allowed them to match any outside contract offer and gave him a nice raise. While he's a role player, it showed that the team values him.
Despite that, Brown said his mindframe heading into this year's training camp was the same as it's always been.
"I'm an undrafted guy just trying to make the team," said Brown, who was bypassed in the 2013 draft after a four-year career at Clemson. "That's what I do every year, treat it like my rookie year."
Brown is more than that now. He's an NFL veteran, a key special teams cog for the Cardinals, and, maybe most importantly, a proven safety valve if one of the Cardinals' star wide receivers go down.
"Obviously I want to be that guy getting all the catches," Brown said. "But at the same time, that's not the position I'm in, and I've got to make the most of my position."