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NFL.com: Cardinals’ John Brown set for a post-hype breakout

Arizona Cardinals' wide receiver John Brown arrives for a voluntary team NFL football workout, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. John ''Smokey'' Brown went through a difficult 2016 season, fighting fatigue and weakness as doctors tried to figure out just what was wrong. Eventually, they seem to have found out, and the diminutive speedster is ready to resume his role as a critical part of the Arizona Cardinals' offense. (AP Photo/Matt York)

After his first two seasons with the Cardinals, John Brown looked like a potential Pro Bowler. Instead, with health issues hindering him, he regressed last season.

The wide receiver out of Pittsburg State burst on the scene in 2014, catching three fourth quarter go-ahead touchdowns and racking up 696 yards.

He followed his rookie campaign with an even better 2015, hauling in 65 receptions for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns.

His trek towards stardom came to a screeching halt last season as the former third-round pick posted career lows with just 39 catches for 517 yards and two touchdowns.

His production dipped in large part because the speed that allowed him to run a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and blow past defenders in the NFL fell absent in 2016, with him recording a long catch of just 30 yards and gaining only 13.3 yards per reception.

The hype has since faded a bit for Brown, and because of that Greg Rosenthal of NFL.com puts “Smoke” as a post-hype All-Star, someone who is ready to emerge as expectations are dying down.

The Cardinals didn’t know what was wrong with Brown last season. Instead of taking the next step to stardom, he just didn’t look like the same “Smokey” who streaked through secondaries in 2015. By October, doctors determined that Brown carries a sickle-cell trait that was causing leg pain. Doctors also found a cyst in his back which may have contributed to a lack of energy. All systems are now go and his T.Y. Hilton-like skill set remains in place to soar, just a year later than everyone expected.

With the cyst removed and the sickle-cell trait under control, Brown can get back to opening up the Cardinals deep-threat passing attack.

“Smoke looks like John Brown,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said following the team’s first organized team activity practice. “A couple of those routes he ran, he did not run one route like that last year.”

Brown’s impact on the Cardinals is undeniable.

In 2015 when he was healthy and at his best, the Cardinals went 13-3 and reached the NFC Championship. Last season, however, they went 7-8-1 and failed to make the playoffs as they struggled to get the chunk plays that made their offense so dangerous.

Although the team’s regression does not fall solely on Brown’s performance, his place and impact in the Cardinals is hard to replicate.

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