With ‘Smoke’ back, Arizona Cardinals’ offense looks to create fire

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26: Wide receiver John Brown #12 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 after Brown's 75-yard touchdown reception against the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth quarter during NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26: Wide receiver John Brown #12 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 after Brown's 75-yard touchdown reception against the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth quarter during NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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After a demotion, and being listed as the No. 3 WR on the latest depth chart, John Brown resembled his old self in the preseason win against the Falcons.

Coming into the 2017 season, a lot weighed on the health of 4th-year wide receiver John Brown. After a breakout performance in 2015, Brown followed that up with a disappointing 2016 season, after being limited by a sickle-cell trait.

This year, so far, he’s been sidelined most of the preseason with a nagging quadriceps injury. The injury prompted a stern response from his head Bruce Arians who said of Brown, “you’re only good when you’re available.” He was subsequently demoted on the depth chart for his unavailability. “It’s been difficult,” Brown said, “but it’s stuff I’ve handled many times in my life, so I know I can handle it.”  

He needed to show he was still “Smoke” — the player who consistently ran past opposing defensive backs. The same player who would give most opposing offensive coordinators insomnia leading up to the game. The latter a bit hyperbolic, but a game-changer nonetheless.

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Brown had quite the response, not only for his head coach, but to those who thought he would never be the same player again. In his first preseason action, Brown answered the call and delivered two amazing TD catches — both of which went for 20-plus yards.

A healthy John Brown makes this one of the most dangerous and complete football teams in the NFL. He stretches the field and allows for his fellow wide receivers to get open underneath. Without him — well, we all know what this offense looked like last year.

With exception to the two tackles on the outside, the Arizona offense looks like it’s starting to come together. David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald have seen very few touches this preseason, but we all know what to expect from them when the real games start.

He might be No. 3 on the depth chart for now, but Brown knows he is a vital part of the offense for the Cardinals. It certainly was a great sign to see him get those two TDs.

Let’s just hope that bit of smoke can lead to a wildfire in the 2017 campaign.