Through the first two games of his young career, rookie linebacker Preston Brown has provided the Buffalo Bills with some surprisingly good results. For a third-round pick that many didn’t expect to contribute much this year, Brown has given the Bills defense a great return on investment as he’s shuffled between both strongside and weakside linebacker spots.
Against the Chicago Bears, Brown started in place of a suspended Nigel Bradham, and against the Miami Dolphins it was for an injured Keith Rivers. In two games Brown has already solidified himself as a major player on defense. He is currently second on the team in tackles with 12, played every defensive snap, and set up a Bills score by returning a fumble 30-yards against the Bears.
The amazing thing in all of this is that Brown was not expected to contribute much this season. Prior to being drafted, the Bills the front office had already identified their linebacking corps as a weakness needing improvement. They then proceeded to sign free agents Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers to start alongside the legendary Kiko Alonso; but since his selection, Brown has seen circumstances change and forced into action early on.
In these two games, the Bills have trusted Brown to shadow the running backs- not just in the rush game, but also the pass, and the former Louisville standout that wasn’t seen as much more than a downhill run-stuffer, has exceeded expectations. When matched up against Chicago’s Matt Forte, he stopped the back four times, and followed that up by bringing down Miami’s Lamar Miller six times.
What has been most impressive in the young linebacker’s rookie season has been his pass defense. Between both games he has recorded eight tackles while dropping into coverage, which is two-thirds of his season total. He has not made many pass breakups, and did stumble on the Martellus Bennett touchdown in week one, but has otherwise been in position to bring down receivers quickly in order to prevent long gains.
A perfect example of how well he’s played was his blow up of a screen pass in the second quarter versus Miami. He read the screen to Lamar Miller and tackled him for a four-yard loss. That play forced Miami into a 3rd & 11 situation, and two plays later fans cheered as the Dolphins punted.
Again Brown is still a rookie and has made some mistakes, but his natural instincts have helped him well and the faith shown in him by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has paid off. With Brown continuing his development it appears the Bills have found a defensive surprise in the young player.