What Does Buffalo Bills’ Rookie LB Preston Brown Bring To The Defense?

The Buffalo Bills have fielded some of the worst defensive units in terms stopping the run in the National Football League over the past several seasons. In order to make a change, the front office utilized their third-round draft pick on a big, strong middle linebacker with length and pop in Preston Brown, an unheralded prospect out of Louisville.

While Brandon Spikes, a proven run-stuffer, was signed during free agency as the team’s projected starting middle linebacker, Brown has the necessary tools to surpass the four-year veteran, who was brought in presumably as a one-year rental, barring circumstances.

Brown is a throwback-type of middle linebacker when compared to the ultra-athletic coverage ‘backers being more and more prevalent in the high rounds of recent drafts. He’s big (6’2” 255 lbs), has length (33 ½” arms) and is extremely physical at the point of attack.

 

In the above video, Brown’s willingness to come up to the line and make a hit is clear. He quickly diagnoses the run and delivers a textbook hit, stopping the running back for a loss. What Brown lacks in straight-line speed (4.86 40-yard dash), he makes up with instincts, that allow him to always finish a play around the ball. At Louisville, Brown was utilized as a downhill player, blitzing on most pass plays, or filling gaps and making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage against the run. However, while primarily a run stopper, Brown’s instincts and quick feet allow him to not be a total liability in pass coverage, despite his low timed speed. In the following clip, Brown drops into an underneath zone, before reading the pass and batting it down, before the wide receiver has a chance to make a play.

Although Brown can drop into coverage, his role, and mentality, as an aggressive run stuffer was exploited with play action at times, as displayed in the clip below. Brown bites hard on the fake, allowing his man to get behind him for a reception.

 

What stood out most to me about Brown’s game as a collegiate athlete was his ability to get off blocks by using his hands. Most college linebackers are able to “win” at a high rate, simply based off of their athletic ability to get around blocks, rather than work through them.

In the following clip, Brown shows an uncanny ability to consistently fight with his hands, anchor against blockers, while effectively stacking and shedding.

Overall, Preston Brown is an extremely intriguing player, to me at least. He’s got everything you want in a linebacker—size, strength, aggressiveness, length, and fluidity. Like most young linebackers, he’ll have to deal with an adjustment period as he learns the nuances of the professional game, but he has the skill set necessary to make an early impact.

With the Bills, he’s in a good spot, as he can learn for a year under a veteran with a similar skill set and on-field attitude in Brandon Spikes, and he won’t be asked to take on too much responsibility in his rookie season.

The coaching staff has already toyed with Brown as the first-team “Mike” in nickel, in favor of Spikes, which is a testament to his underrated athleticism.

While Brown flew under the radar for most of his collegiate career, through the draft process, he certainly has a chance to make a name for himself within the next two seasons on the Bills’ defense.

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